Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes was remembered by more than 5,000 people at an emotional funeral service in his hometown of Macksville in New South Wales.
The service, which was televised and broadcast nationally, paid tribute to the popular batsman who was described as a “one of a kind” and “as loyal as they come”, reports Xinhua.
Australian captain Michael Clarke choked back tears as he delivered an emotional eulogy to his former teammate, while Hughes’ best friends, his brother, sister and cousin, and Cricket Australia (CA) CEO James Sutherland, also honoured his gregarious personality and gentle nature.
Hughes, 25, died Nov 27 after being struck on the head by a bouncer in a domestic match at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) two days earlier.
The funeral was watched by many more people at live screenings at the SCG, Adelaide Oval, Blundstone Arena, the Gabba in Brisbane, the WACA Ground in Perth and Melbourne’s Federation Square.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition leader Bill Shorten, as well as the entire Australian Test team and the Australian women’s team, attended the service.
Former Australian captains Mark Taylor and Ricky Ponting were also in attendance, while former international greats such as New Zealander Richard Hadlee and West Indian Brian Lara made the trip to the NSW town. Indian stand-in captain Virat Kohli and team director Ravi Shastri also attended the service.
Hughes’ brother Jason, father Gregory, cricketers Clarke, Aaron Finch and Tom Cooper and friends Corey Ireland, Mitchell Lonergan and Matthew Day acted as pallbearers, with his coffin led out of the service by a guard of honour and through the streets of Macksville.
In the midst of the service, Clarke choked back tears as he spoke of his “little brother.”
Clarke, who was also a close friend of Hughes, reminisced about the times the pair spent playing together and said he would always be with him when he will be in the middle.
“This truly must be what they call ‘the spirit of cricket.’ We must cherish it, we must learn from it, we must dig in and get through to tea and we must play on. So rest in peace my little brother, I’ll see you out in the middle.”
Meanwhile, Sutherland said Hughes’ death has affected the entire cricket community around the world.
“Cricket’s heart has been pierced with pain, but it will never stop beating. Phillip Hughes, forever unconquered on 63,” Sutherland said.
His brother Jason, and sister, Megan, both wrote letters that they read out in front of the packed Macksville Recreational Center.
“There won’t be a day that goes by that I won’t think of you. You have certainly changed the way I look at and appreciate life. I will certainly take every opportunity that comes by,” Megan said.
“Over the last few days, I have learned to say good-bye, but I have realised that good-bye doesn’t mean forever. Until next time, I love you big brother.”
Hughes’ cousin, Nino Rammuno, delivered a eulogy on behalf of his family, recalling his journey into cricket, which was heavily influenced by his brother.
“Jason first introduced in a club game where, had Phillip not played, the game would have been called off. On debut, as a tail-ender, Phillip made 25 runs and so his love of the game begun,” Rammuno said.
Close friend of Hughes and his family, Corey Ireland, paid tribute to the man away from cricket and in particular, his love for Angus cattle.
Ireland revealed that Hughes had ambitions of creating his own agricultural business after retirement and promised that he would strive to continue Hughes’ vision.
“I will miss your energy, eternal optimism, your cattle and our family. Hughesy, I will make a promise to you today mate, I will keep your dream alive,” Ireland said.
Hughes’ death has thrown the cricket and sporting world into a sense of mourning, with clubs, players and fans paying tribute to the late batsman.