West Indies legend Brian Lara stunned fellow mourners after flying from India to Townsville to pay his respects to Andrew Symonds in person.
The stylish batsman, regarded as one of the world’s best ever cricketers, flew more than 10,000km to attend Friday’s funeral for the Australian all-rounder, who died in a car accident on May 14.
Symonds’ car left the road and rolled at Hervey Range, 50km west of Townsville in far north Queensland.
He died at the scene and was just 46.
Lara said the death of Symonds had deeply ‘rocked’ him – as did the passing of champion leg-spinner Shane Warne in March.
‘I felt I was building something beyond cricket with Andrew,’ Lara said.
West Indies cricket legend Brian Lara (pictured left) travelled 10,000km to Townsville from India to farewell his good mate and former rival Andrew Symonds on Friday
The pair were on-field opponents, but developed a close friendship away from cricket, especially in recent years
‘Sometimes you lose relationships with players when you retire. But ours grew. And it was not because he forced it or I forced it. It just happened naturally. We were awesome together.’
Lara long admired the fact that Symonds was his own man – and lived a life different to that of his contemporaries.
And the man they affectionately used to call ‘Roy’ had a dry sense of humour that kept Lara entertained.
Following Warne’s funeral, the pair socialised together at the Crown in Melbourne until the early hours – memories Lara will now always cherish.
Meanwhile, Michael Clarke was also a surprise guest at Symonds’ funeral as the former Australia captain put his feud with his old mate behind him.
Clarke, who was very close to Symonds when he joined the Australian team before their relationship broke down, said he was ‘devastated’ in an Instagram post following the 46-year-old’s passing earlier this month.
Their mateship came to an end in 2008, when Symonds was sent home from a Test match in Darwin when he chose fishing over a compulsory team meeting.
He felt Clarke – who was Test captain at the time – had betrayed him.
However, Clarke was pictured at Symonds’ family funeral service in Townsville on Friday, appearing forlorn as he said goodbye to his old friend.
Symonds’ devastated wife and children clutched Akubras as family and friends gathered to bid one last emotional farewell to the cricket great.
They joined the cricketer’s former Australian teammates, such as Ricky Ponting, Mark Waugh, Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson and Adam Gilchrist at Riverway Stadium on the outskirts of Townsville.
Among the first to arrive an hour prior to the service were Symonds’ wife Laura and their children Chloe and Will.
Chloe celebrated her tenth birthday last week – just four days after her dad’s sudden death. Both she and little brother later bravely delivered eulogies.
They were followed a short time later by Symonds’ best friend, former Australian and Queensland teammate Jimmy Maher.
Andrew Symonds’ wife Laura and son Will, 8, arrived at the funeral on Friday carrying Akubras, his beloved attire
Andrew Symonds’ daughter Chloe, 10, bravely spoke at her dad’s funeral, where she comforted his best mate Jimmy Maher
Former Australian captain Ricky Ponting and teammate Adam Gilchrist (right) were among the cricket greats in attendance
The order of service featured photos of Symonds wearing his beloved Akubra and as a boy aspiring to wear the baggy green
Other cricket greats who travelled north included Ian Healy and Glenn McGrath, while NRL legends Darren Lockyer and Gordon Tallis were also in attendance.
Gilchrist told Daily Mail Australia after the service Maher delivered the best eulogy he’d ever heard.
‘Jimmy gave what I think is one of the most beautiful eulogies you could ever imagine.
‘He looked the kids in the eye and delivered a message of what he thought Roy would want him to say and it was really touching, really moving.
‘And my day’s just got better because I bumped into Will (Symonds’ son) and he’s said to me “guess what Gilly? I’m now a wicket-keeper.’
‘Sorry Roy,’ he said, looking at the sky. ‘I poached him.’
When trying to describe what Symonds was like ‘as a mate’, Gilchrist had to take a moment, tears welling in his eyes.
‘He was a pure heart, he found his way into trouble as good as anyone, but when he did he was remorseful…and then he’d dust himself off and have another go,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
Adam Gilchrist (right with former Aussie captain Ricky Ponting) later told Daily Mail Australia the service was ‘simply beautiful’
Distraught mourners comforted one another in emotional scene as the private service concluded
‘He was loyal, almost to a fault. Mischievous character, but he would do whatever it took to help others – in and off the field.
‘The service was simply beautiful. I’ve not seen a congregation as moved as they were today – full of sadness, but also such beautiful memories of a guy who just gave so much of himself to so many people, unconditionally.’
When asked whether he could believe he was standing at Symonds’ funeral, Gilchrist said ‘No, I can’t’.
‘I can’t believe I was standing there, unable to speak ten minutes ago and I’m trying to talk now, openly and honestly.
‘I literally can’t believe he’s gone, nor could anyone who was at that service today.’
A note was sent to guests saying ‘no tie necessary’ to reflect Symonds’ casual personal style. Throughout his career, he often showed up to semi-formal events wearing shorts and t-shirts.
Former teammates took the brief seriously with chinos and button-up shirts, while others wore three-piece suits.
Symonds’ best mate and former teammate Jimmy Maher (right) arrived with his family. The pair had been friends for 30 years
Shattered friends and family fought back tears and embraced each other as they arrived for an emotional send-off
Many attendees were also dressed in maroon in a nod to Symonds’ love for his home state Queensland.
Mourners greeted each other with hugs, holding back tears, as they came together to pay tribute to Symonds and celebrate his life.
The order of service featured a poem titled ‘You ripper Roy’ celebrating Symonds’ life penned by poet Rupert McCall, which he also read out at the service in honour of his good mate.
‘Fate marks a moment in everyone’s life, the tide turns at dusk and the big fish are rife,’ it reads.
‘Instinct befriends you and confidence grows, talent takes over and everything flows.
‘Where to from here? Well, with him, who’s to say? The ocean is deep and the fella can play.
‘For now, let’s acknowledge the dream of a boy, and the day he fulfilled it…’You ripper Roy’.’
Andrew Symonds’ coffin at the service was surrounded by a host of cricket caps, along with his cricket bat
Emotional mourners comforted each other as they arrived at Riverway Stadium for the 90-minute service
Well-dressed mourners complied with the ‘no-tie necessary’ request in a nod to the late cricketer’s casual personal style
Former all-rounder Shane Watson was among the busload of cricket greats who arrived for the service together
Former Australian cricket coach John Buchanan and his wife attended Symonds’ private funeral
Guests at the service were sombre – completely silent as they sat in the middle of the stadium, as piano played softly in the background.
They were urged to make a donation to Royal Flying Doctor Service in lieu of flowers.
Symonds’ smiling face could be seen on three screens, and on a photo above the coffin – adorned with flowers, sitting behind a table with cricket caps and trinkets.
Cricket stumps were positioned around the marquees.
Nigel Fairbairn was first to speak after the service was opened with a song called ‘Knee Deep’, by Zac Brown Band.
‘I welcome you here to celebrate the life of Andrew Symonds,’ he began.
‘The gratitude his family extends to you all, with the acknowledgement to people who have travelled long distances.
‘Rejoice in the life he led. Celebrate it and learn from it.
‘Andrew’s life was a life well-lived, albeit cut short too early.’
Adam Gilchrist was in disbelief another attending another funeral of a close mate, this time Andrew Symonds
Former Australian cricketer Jason Gillespie was spotted at the public memorial service for Andrew Symonds at Riverway Stadium
Symonds’ children Chloe and Billy were next to speak, followed by his mother Barbara and sister Louise.
Former Australian and Queensland teammate Matthew Hayden also delivered a video tribute.
As a photographic tribute video played to John Williamson’s iconic hit True Blue, Jimmy Maher – Symonds’ best friend – broke down.
Little Chloe got up from her seat in the front row and gave him a big hug, before she hopped on to her mum’s lap.
Maher tried to maintain composure, taking swigs from a water bottle, before he got up to deliver the eulogy.
Few people knew Symonds better than Maher, his long-time friend and former teammate. The pair first began playing cricket together in the under-10s in the nearby town of Charters Towers.
One of Maher’s fondest memories of the pair’s 30-year friendship was being part of Australia’s victorious 2003 World Cup squad.
Last week, Maher pledged his support to Symonds’ children while speaking with Daily Mail Australia.
The who’s who of cricket circles were Townsville to farewell Symonds, including former wicketkeeper Ian Healy
Australian cricket great Mark Waugh was among the many who complied with the ‘no tie necessary’ rule
The flags were at half-mast as the hearse left the stadium after the service, just before 12.30.
Family, friends and former teammates slowly made their way up the stairs and into a private room in the stadium for the wake – in a sea of black, deep blues, and maroon, the colour of Queensland cricket organisation, the Bulls Masters.
Some guests walked arm-in-arm, comforting each other after saying goodbye to the father-of-two.
Former teammate Matthew Mott told Daily Mail Australia everyone has been ‘dreading this day’.
‘But I just thought it was an outstanding tribute to a great human being,’ he said.
‘It was tough – I was in eyeline with the kids there and I just kept thinking about how he won’t get to see them grow up. He loved them so much and they meant so much to him.
Symonds also had close ties with the NRL and used to train with the Brisbane Broncos. Pictured is NRL legend Darren Lockyer
‘I suppose the thing I take out of it is the amount of fishing trips I knocked back because we all got too busy, and you’d just love that opportunity to get back out there and do that again with him.
‘For me, he was like a brother. One of those blokes you take for granted and you think they’ll always be there.
‘You could tell there were a lot of people hurting. ‘It’s a sad moment but it was a great service that celebrated a life well lived. It’s a shame it’s been cut so short and he had so much more to give to a lot of people.
‘Those kids grew up with a loving father and they know he’ll be overlooking them for many years to come.
‘His mum Barbara got up and told a lot of stories about when he was younger – I think a lot of those stories were assumed knowledge, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the house from about half way through.’
Asked how the cricket community was coping with the loss of three greats within just a few months, Mott said he couldn’t make sense of it.
‘I still feel a bit numb about the whole thing.’
‘This one has just rocked us – not just the cricket community, but everyone.’
A public service was staged at 2.30pm, where plenty left the wake to once again pay their respects to Symonds.
Andrew Symonds’ coffin left the stadium in a funeral hearse following the private memorial service
Around 100 family, friends and former teammates gathered for a private memorial ahead of a public service later on Friday