'Always had your back': Glenn Maxwell's parting gift to manager to the stars
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'Always had your back': Glenn Maxwell's parting gift to manager to the stars

As Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey were beginning what would become one of Australia's great one-day international partnerships at Old Trafford in September, their manager Tony Connelly woke up randomly in his room at North Shore Private Hospital in Sydney and switched on the television.

The agent for some of the game's biggest names had been there for the previous two months as a battle with bowel cancer he had waged for the best part of a year took a turn for the worse.

On this morning, however, his timing was as exquisite as Maxwell's in Manchester.

Connelly opened his eyes in time to see the enigmatic batsman and Carey both score hundreds – the keeper's first at international level – in a remarkable 212-run stand that paved the way for Australia to come from nowhere and mow down England in the third and series-deciding ODI.

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Maxwell was named player of the match and the series and after the game he and Carey posed for a photo with another of Connelly's clients, leg-spinner Adam Zampa, and his good friend, Australian team batting consultant Trent Woodhill, and sent it off to the manager in hospital.

Nine days later, on September 26, Connelly was dead, aged 46.

Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell celebrate Carey's maiden ODI ton at Old Trafford.

Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell celebrate Carey's maiden ODI ton at Old Trafford.Credit:Getty Images

It was a life cut terribly short, leaving behind a young family: wife Monique and their two children Cooper, 6, and Will, 4.

But amid the devastation there was just the smallest consolation that in his final days he was able to see two of his players shine on the big stage including Maxwell, whom he had consistently and unapologetically championed throughout the batsman's ups and downs.

"He was extremely biased towards his players," Maxwell said before Australia's first international of the summer against India at the SCG on Friday.

"It was one of his greatest traits, his unwavering support of his players. I just remember, even if I was struggling for form or whatever, he just had your back no matter what. He'd always make you feel better after a conversation with him, always make you feel 10 feet tall.

Trent Woodhill, Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey pose for a photo they sent to Tony Connelly after Australia's series win in England.

Trent Woodhill, Adam Zampa, Glenn Maxwell and Alex Carey pose for a photo they sent to Tony Connelly after Australia's series win in England.

"I don't think we as players really knew how badly he was struggling. He never really let on too much, which was pretty typical of Tony. He didn't want to sort of burden us, I suppose, with everything he was going through."

Connelly also represented Joe Burns and Nathan Coulter-Nile as well as David Warner and Shane Watson during the height of their careers, jumping straight on a plane to England in 2013 to be by the side of Warner after his infamous Walkabout fracas with Joe Root.

The fortunes of the often under-appreciated but wildly talented Maxwell, however, were never far from his mind when he was talking cricket, including with the player himself when they caught up for dinner in Sydney, Melbourne or at the Indian Premier League.

"We'd just sit there and talk about how hard done by we were or whatever it is. In my head [even] if I knew it was bullshit, I'd think ‘this is brilliant, he's always got my back'," Maxwell said.

He was one of those guys who never backed away for his players. He'd put his nuts on the line for all of his players

Adam Zampa

"He was always that guy that would be a positive voice that you need to hear at different times. Even through the last month that we were chatting, he had this unwavering positively and excitement about us doing well. We sent him a photo of all his players and Trent as well after we won the series in England. We know how much of a smile that gave him and how excited for me and Alex to perform well. We know how much that meant to him. It just felt like we were TC's boys, trying to do him proud.

"The hardest thing was not being there at the end for him. For all the things he's done for us, it was hard for us not to be there for him."

Connelly's players were able to watch his funeral in Sydney via Zoom, with Maxwell and Zampa among those tuning in from the United Arab Emirates, where they were playing in the Indian Premier League.

Three weeks before he died, he had married his long-time partner Monique at a small ceremony at Darling Point in Sydney's eastern suburbs.

They had planned to wed next January in Queenstown, New Zealand, but "between COVID and cancer", Monique said, they brought it forward.

Tony Connelly, wife Monique and their sons Will and Cooper on the couple's wedding day in September.

Tony Connelly, wife Monique and their sons Will and Cooper on the couple's wedding day in September.

"He was unwell but he found some sort of strength to be able to do it. Maybe because he knew how much it meant to me," she said.

Connelly's players have since rallied around her and the family including Warner, who moved to another manager three years ago.

"Dave still contacts me now to check in if I'm OK," Monique said. "They maintained a friendship beyond their professional relationship."

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Zampa, who will renew his rivalry with India maestro and IPL teammate Virat Kohli at the SCG on Friday, was another who was close to Connelly and was shattered by his passing.

"Knowing it was going to happen for 12 months, you never really get your head around getting that phone call and getting told those kind of things … it was really tough to take," the leg-spinner said.

"Tony was one of those guys, around cricket circles, he was always seen as a tough nut. He would never back down but he would never back down because he would do anything for his players. That's one thing I will definitely miss about Tony. He was one of those guys who never backed away for his players. He'd put his nuts on the line for all of his players.

"There's been plenty of times since I've been with Tony where I've been told I'm not playing, had a bad day or something hasn't gone my way. I'm happy to admit I shouldn't be playing, he'd be the shoulder I go to lean on. But he would be like ‘nah, that's bull crap, you deserve better'. He was always really emotional. He loved all his players."

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