As Australia mourned the death of cricketer Phillip Hughes, we learned more about his other life – a dream for his future as a cattle farmer.
Hughes was, as his friend Corey Ireland told his funeral, passionate about Angus cattle.
The boy from country Macksville was well down the track on making his dream of a life after cricket, running 600 Angus cattle on a beautiful stud farm, a reality when his talented life was cut short at the crease.
His breeding business was called Four O Eight Angus, after the number of his Australian Test cap.
“He spent every spare moment thinking about his cattle, researching genetics and planning his next move,” Mr Ireland, an Angus breeder who met Hughes at the Royal Easter Show salesyard, said.
Mr Ireland, who described himself as “not a cricket person”, didn’t know who the enthusiastic youngster who bought a heifer from him was but their friendship grew out of the business of cattle.
The global touring commitments of cricket meant Hughes could not devote much time to his beloved herd but he loved sharing the business of cattle with his dad, Greg, and had an expert eye.
Mr Ireland said he became used to midnight phone calls from around the world and requests for photos of a cow or bull Hughes wanted to know more about.
Australian captain Michael Clarke knew that enthusiasm.
Clarke told the funeral congregation he could feel Hughes’s spirit when he visited the Sydney Cricket Ground and touched the grass where he fell.
He could feel Hughes checking he was okay, Clarke said, telling him to just dig in until tea, “and then passing on a useless fact about cows”.
Mr Ireland said Hughes had taken a slow and steady approach to building his herd, pledging to buy a new cow every time he scored a century.
“The herd grew quite quickly,” he said.
Hughes’s hard work was paying off: his animals were winning country show championships and his bulls were much sought-after at the markets.
Hughes had visited Mr Ireland recently to talk about setting up a serious cattle business, and had spent a few days learning the rigours of the craft – mustering, vaccinating bulls, drenching cows.
“It was the beginning of the 10-year plan,” Mr Ireland said.
When they spoke about cattle, Hughes was at his happiest.
“‘I’m happy Corey Ireland, I’m all teeth’, was what he would say,” Mr Ireland said.