More than 5,000 people gathered in the New South Wales town of Macksville for the funeral of their cricketing hero Phillip Hughes.
The death of the 25-year-old last week, after being hit by a bouncer at a Sheffield Shield match, brought an outpouring of grief.
His parents, Greg and Virginia Hughes, and his brother Jason and sister Megan are at the funeral being held at the stadium of the Macksville High School.
“Greg and Virginia, our hearts are aching for you,” said Father Michael Alcock, who is leading the ceremony.
“We’re here for you at the loss of your beloved son.”
Thousands more watched the service on large screens around Australia, including the Sydney Cricket Ground, Adelaide Oval, Brisbane’s the Gabba and the WACA in Perth.
Others watched at home, at their places of work or listening in on the radio.
“We give God thanks for the blessings of this young man,” said Father Michael Alcock. “To those both near and far whom his life has touched and we pray this afternoon that today we will feel some consolation as we celebrate his life.”
Father Alcock said the Easter candle was lit for Phillip today, reminding everyone that this young man was a shining light to those who were privileged to have known him.
He said: “I know we all have so many questions this afternoon. Why Phillip? Why taken so young? How could such a thing happen to such a fine young man? And I have no answer to those questions. But I do know the world is a better place for having experienced the vitality, friendship, love, passion and energy of Phillip Joel Hughes.”
Nino Ramunno, a cousin of Phillip Hughes, spoke: “He was one of a kind. A young kid from the country who dared to dream big and showed if you set your mind to it you can achieve greatness.”
This image is from the cover of the funeral order of service:
His brother Jason told the funeral: “Now it’s time to say goodbye, take care. I miss you, I’m so proud of you, thank you again for all the memories. I love you now and forever.”
His sister Megan said: “You always protected me and stood up for me when need be. I honestly couldn’t imagine having all my memories with someone else. There won’t be a day that goes by that I won’t think of you.”
Corey Ireland, a friend, tsaid Phillip was passionate about Angus cattle, spending time with them and planning genetics.
His deal with himself is that he would buy a new cow to add to the herd every time he scored a century.
“The herd grew quite quickly,” he said.
Michael Clarke, captain of the Australian team, said he keeps keep looking for Phillip.
He expects to get a phone call any minute or to see his face pop around the corner.
Clarke said: “The bonds leading to cricketers around the world putting their bats out, who saw people who didn’t know Phillip lay flowers at the gates of Lords and every cricketing nation on Earth to make its tribute. Players old and new rushed to his bedside where from wherever they heard the news to say their prayers and farewell s. This is what makes our game the greatest game in the world. 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, we must cherish it, we must learn from it, we must dig in, … we must dig in and get through to tea. And we must play on. So, Rest in peace little brother, i’ll see you out in the middle.”
James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, said: Cricket’s heart has been pierced by pain but will never stop beating. It will find its rhythm next week in Adelaide and beyond and wherever cricketers gather, they will always hold Phillip Hughes and his family close to that generous beating heart. Phillip Hughes, forever, unconquered on 63.”
The song “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” was played as the casket was taken from the funeral service.
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