Australia bids emotional farewell to Hughes

Wed Dec 3, 2014 7:49am EST
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By Jason Reed

MACKSVILLE, Australia (Reuters) - 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 of the life of a sportsman cut down in his prime.

Eight days after Hughes was struck by a ball on the back of the head and six after he died from the catastrophic injuries that resulted, his family, friends and a host of cricketing greats gathered at Macksville High School.

Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland spoke for many when he tried to make sense of the huge outpouring of grief that followed the tragic death of the left-handed batsman a few days short of his 26th birthday.

"The wave of emotion that has washed over our country this past week tells us so much about the affection millions felt for Phillip and also about the privileged place cricket has near the heart of this nation," he said.

"Quite simply, the boy from this proud community of Macksville, personified the spirit of Australian cricket.

"Ever since Bradman, the image of the innocent country boy playing in the backyard while dreaming of wearing a baggy green cap has become entrenched in our psyche. It's our foundation myth as a cricketing nation."

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.

From the eulogies, they learned of a beloved son, brother, cousin and friend whose passion for cricket was matched only by his enthusiasm for the Angus cattle he helped raise on the family farm.   Continued...

Gregory Hughes (front), the father of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, cries as he carries his son's casket past mourners after his funeral service in the town of Macksville, located north of Sydney, December 3, 2014.  REUTERS/Cameron Spencer/Pool