Australia bid an emotional farewell to cricketer Phillip Hughes at a funeral in his hometown on Wednesday with a live coast-to-coast broadcast allowing a nation to unite in celebration and remembrance of the life of a sportsman cut down in his prime. Eight days after Hughes was struck by a ball to the back of the head, and six after he died of catastrophic injuries resulting from the freak incident, his family, friends and a host of cricketing greats gathered at Macksville High School.
Australia captain Michael Clarke broke down in tears for the second time in a few days as he paid public tribute to his former team mate and friend, who would have been 26 last Sunday. “Phillip’s spirit, which is now part of our game forever, will act as a custodian of the sport we all love. We must listen to it,” he said, struggling to contain his emotions. “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 will see you out in the middle.” Some 1,000 mourners, mostly locals with a smattering of luminaries including Prime Minister Tony Abbott, dabbed away tears and perspiration in the baking heat of the school hall with thousands more watching on screens in the sunshine outside. Australian greats of the game such as Shane Warne, Ricky Ponting and Glenn McGrath were in attendance, while Richard Hadlee, Brian Lara and India captain Virat Kohli represented the wider cricket world. The service was broadcast live on international television news networks and shown on big screens in Australia’s major cities, including at the Sydney Cricket Ground where Hughes suffered the fatal injury during a state match last Tuesday.