The funeral for Phillip Hughes has drawn together his family, friends, team-mates and a whole nation in mourning. The simple service was held on Wednesday in the small Australian town of Macksville, NSW – Hughes’s home town.
A local school hall was transformed for one emotional afternoon into the nation’s cathedral. The wooden floorboards painted with basketball court markings and furnished with simple stackable chairs was a most humble setting for whom speakers would note was a humble boy from a humble country community.
Current and former cricket stars, including Michael Clarke and the entire Australian team as well as members of the touring India cricket team, joined Hughes’s family and other mourners at the funeral. The Australian prime minister, Tony Abbott, and opposition leader, Bill Shorten, were also in attendance.
People also gathered to watch the Phil Hughes funeral service on video big screens erected at the SCG and Adelaide Oval, mirroring the one erected at the Macksville cricket oval. Around Australia, others watched the live telecast on their televisions and computers, at home and at work.
The otherwise traditional Catholic service, led by Father Michael Alcock, commenced with the Kev Carmody /Paul Kelly song ‘From Little Things Big Things Grow’, which also featured during the recent Gough Whitlam state memorial service.
Eulogies were delivered by Phil Hughes’s brother, sister and cousin. They recalled the life of a farm boy who liked Tonka trucks and fishing and was a sensational back yard cricketer for whom great things beckoned.
“Phillip, I’m so honoured to call you my brother, my best friend and my hero,” Megan Hughes told mourners.
“All I ever wanted was for you to look up to me as your big brother,” Jason Hughes said.
Michael Clarke battled with tears giving his particularly moving eulogy, ending with the words: “Rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle.”
Elton John’s ‘Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me’ – the song which the singer dedicated to Phil Hughes during a concert in Germany at the weekend – played over speakers as the coffin was taken in procession from the hall and placed in a hearse.
Mourners from inside then joined those gathered outside and along the streets, to follow the hearse as it was driven through Macksville for the town’s final farewell to its fallen young champion.
The scenes were somewhat reminiscent of the Princess Diana funeral. Far more modest and no less poignant, it was more than saying good-bye to royalty though; a family, a team, a town and a nation bid farewell to a son.
TOP IMAGE: The Phillip Hughes funeral procession. (By Chris Hyde/Getty Images)