Hughes’ mother’s uncontrollable grief

Everyone knew Phillip Hughes was much more than just a cricketer.

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But it was his mother Virginia’s uncontrollable grief and his father Greg’s tears as he carried his son’s coffin that really drove it home.

He was a son. He was a brother. He was a cousin, a friend and self-described “Mummy’s boy”.

He lived the high life of a sports star but never forgot his humble beginnings in his picturesque hometown of Macksville on the NSW mid-north coast.

His funeral revealed the depth of his big plans as a cattle breeder, he also had at least another decade of international cricket at his mercy.

It was that sense of unfinished business that made the 25-year-old’s funeral at the Macksville Recreation Ground so painful not only for those in attendance, but those watching from afar.

The tributes have rolled in for the son of a banana farmer from Broadway to Barbados, Macksville to Manchester, Hollywood to Bollywood.

Political heavyweights and a who’s who of world cricket attended his funeral but it was the images of his mother Virginia that were most difficult to take in.

She needed her husband Greg’s broad shoulders to even make it to her seat at the ceremony on a steamy, sticky summer’s day.

The tears rolled down her cheeks throughout the ceremony and on the way out, she sobbed audibly as she left the hall with her daughter Megan talking to her and helping to a car.

Hughes’ little sister Megan summed up the family’s pain.

“I am so honoured to call you my best friend, my brother and my hero,” she said.

“Your smile, the twinkle in your eye, your charm and your humour will never fade.

“You were the most amazing brother you can ask for. They say you can’t choose your family but I would not have had it any other way.”

His cousin Nino Ramunno spoke of Hughes’ fondness for his Italian grandmother’s pasta and fishing while Jason Hughes reflected on epic backyard cricket matches where his little brother always managed to bat first.

Business partner Corey Ireland talked about how Hughes was already on his way to fulfilling his post-cricket dream as a cattle breeder with a 600-strong herd.

He also touched on his generosity after telling of the day Mr Ireland’s young sons returned home with 26 showbags from the Royal Sydney Easter Show.

Hughes did not want to disappoint the boys.

“He would have been an outstanding father, a big kid at heart but in control of what he wanted to achieve,” Mr Ireland said.

Test captain Michael Clarke still can’t come to grips with the passing of the man he called his ‘little brother’.

“He was so proud of Macksville and it is so easy to see why today,” Clarke said.

“I keep looking for him, I know it is crazy but I expect any minute to take a call from him or see his face pop around the corner.

Following Hughes’ death on Thursday, Clarke returned to the scene of the fatal ball at the SCG.

“We must dig in, and get through to tea and we must play on,” Clarke said.

“So rest in peace my little brother I will see you out in the middle.”

Thousands also watched the service on screens at Hughes’ home grounds the SCG and Adelaide Oval, as well as in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Hobart.

After the funeral, thousands joined a public procession down Macksville’s main streets in Hughes’ honour.

It was a touching sight and also a reminder of a small town ready to wrap their arms around a family that had lost someone far too soon.

Not that it was only family that needed support.

Sean Abbott, the man who delivered the ball last week that killed Hughes, shook hands with plenty of wellwishers at the funeral.