real life

This one punch is why we must teach boys to communicate, not confront.

It’s a story we haven’t been able to look away from all week.

Two brothers who love each other, caught in tragic chaos.

It’s an image that’s hard to forget. I certainly haven’t. One man is fighting for his life on a stretcher as another kneels on the ground, beyond police tape, the full reality of what he’s allegedly done slowly sinking in.

Patrick Lyttle on a stretcher after being floored by one punch.

Right now, this is a case before the court. What police will allege is that visiting Irishman Barry Lyttle punched his backpacking younger brother Patrick with enough force that he fell backwards, knocking his head on the concrete pavement and recklessly causing grievous bodily harm.

There is nothing noble about a ‘king hit’.

Ever since this story broke, my own mates have been in a messaging-marathon about the number of brotherly bust-ups they could have imagined spiralling out of control. That’s why we haven’t been able to look away. Because this brotherly bust-up feels like it could have been any of us.

For my friends, thankfully, charges for punching a random on a Friday night aren’t something they’ll ever find themselves facing.

Throwing a loose hook at their brother over something small in the early hours is a lot more likely.

Cue the flashbacks. of that one extra push that nearly tipped things over the edge on the river you camped at every summer, or that one closed fist that missed landing in the wrong spot by only millimetres.

Brothers Patrick and Barry

And that’s what turned this case into a rare example where the defendant becomes defended by so many. Yes, it was stupid. Yes, it’s a crime. But he needed the handcuffs replaced by a hug from his hero – his Dad.

Growing up, fighting with your own brother – or even a best mate – often helps boys learn the limits of lads’ argy-bargy and the power of your punch. They’re scrappy, sweaty competitions on the footy oval or in the backyard that no-one wants to lose. Pride is at stake and parents aren’t supposed to hear.

Brothers Patrick and Barry

But as you get older, buried inside you is a knowing nudge that keeps the force in your fist at the right temperature.

And for Barry, it’s claimed, his flying fist has slipped into too high a gear. Now horror is staring back at him.

As I write this, Patrick remains in hospital and is still in a critical condition. Barry has been granted bail with strict conditions – met by his father Oliver as he was released from custody.

Patrick and Barry’s father

Oliver was already in the country to spend time with his two little legends – but now, they’re united for a reason that none of them had dreamed off: a bedside vigil.

 We can only hope for the best for the Lyttle family and remind ourselves that no bubble or barrier will ever appear to protect us from our own actions.

And of the power of teaching young blokes from an early age to communicate rather than confront.

That’s the best gift going around.