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Teammates’ emotional farewell to Phillip Hughes in the middle of the SCG

Hallowed ground: A bat rests on the SCG turf. Photo: SCG Twitter Hughes’s parents Greg and Virginia and sister Megan. Photo: Daniel Munoz

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The exact spot on the pitch, just outside the popping crease at the Randwick end, where Phillip Hughes lost his life was the exact spot where those who loved him most said goodbye.

One by one, they came to the middle of the SCG in fading light late on Thursday.

The first was Dave Warner.

He trudged out to the centre shortly after the inevitable word had filtered through that medical staff at St Vincent’s hospital had turned off Hughes’s life support.

He sat on his haunches, crouched on the same patch where a seemingly innocuous bouncer had stung Hughes in the side of the neck on Tuesday afternoon.

Warner had been one of the first to him, and the one to hold his hand in the medicab as he left the field, and then the one who had been in tears as he left the SCG.

Soon after that, came Sean Abbott – the young fast bowler who had sent down the delivery and who a nation now wants to embrace as tightly as the Hughes family.

The NSW teammates were there for 20 minutes, and after them the solemn march started.

Out came Hughes’s mother, Virginia, his sister, Megan, and brother, Jason.

Then players and coaches, past and present, from NSW and Australia who have flown in from every corner of the country, made their way out through the gate of the iconic Members pavilion and to the middle to pay their respects.

The last of them was Michael Clarke.

According to those who were there, the Australian captain stood in spitting rain, with his head bowed.

Clarke stood there longer than anyone. Nobody knows how long. It was a long time, though.

He has been acclaimed from those within Cricket Australia for being a rock for the Hughes family, and his own teammates. But now comes the skipper’s time to grieve. Who cares about a sore back when you’ve got a broken heart?

In the past two days since Hughes’s death, the home dressing room and the Members pavilion has become a shrine to the laconic kid who was supposed to be turning 26 on Sunday.

The SCG Trust has handed the keys to this sacred place to his mates for as long as they want.

On Wednesday afternoon, his former NSW teammates had seen him in intensive care, then retired to a nearby pub, but were then drawn back to the home dressing room.

The sheds are supposed to be happy places where victories are savoured. Or where sorrows after drowned. Right now, it’s a place of abject sorrow.

It remains unclear when they will play cricket here again.

There’s supposed to be another Sheffield Shield match, against Queensland, starting on December 5. Yet there’s a murmur they mightn’t play here until the Sydney Test out of respect.

Just as every member of the crowd is implored to wear pink on day three to celebrate Jane McGrath and support breast cancer research, there are already suggestions the first day crowd early next year could wear yellow – in honour of Hughes and because his father, Greg, is a banana farmer on the NSW mid-north coast.

Every member of the Australian cricket team was at the SCG again first thing on Friday morning, including Clarke and Warner.

They don’t know whether they will play in the Test match against India in Brisbane next Thursday. They haven’t even had the discussion, officials say.

Should they play or not? Nobody has the right to tell a man how he should grieve.

“And they’re grieving,” weary Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland told the media pack outside the SCG on Friday morning. “They’ve lost someone who is incredibly close to them.”

The previous night, there had been some lighter moments as the Members Long Bar filled with devastated family and friends and teammates.

They included former captain Ricky Ponting, Glenn McGrath, Craig McDermott, Simon Katich, Stuart Clark and Stuart MacGill.

“There were some great stories being told,” said Sutherland, “and quite a lot of laughter about the cheeky little boy who came down from Macksville and had the highest ambitions for himself and his cricket game. He will always be remembered.

“Over the last few days, cricketers from all over the country have gathered here in Sydney to hope and pray for Phillip, and to support his family and friends. Unfortunately, last night, they all had to gather here at the SCG to reflect on Phillip and what had just happened. It was a sad and quiet occasion, but it was a memorable one.”

NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley was also there, comforting the Hughes family.

On Tuesday morning, Daley had texted Hughes and assured him he’d make a hundred for South Australia against NSW.

He was in the stands for the morning session, as Hughes started to amass what looked like a big score.

They spoke at the lunch break, with Daley telling him he’d come back to the SCG to see him bat again the closer he came to his hundred.

It was the last time he saw him alive.

The daughter of NSWRL’s chief executive Dave Trodden is in a relationship with Hughes’s older brother, Jason, who bats for Mosman.

When the NSW team based itself out of Coffs Harbour ahead of this year’s State of Origin series, the Hughes family from nearby Macksville was welcomed into the fold.

When the Blues broke Queensland’s eight-year stranglehold on Origin at ANZ Stadium in Sydney in game two, Phillip was a popular sight in the victorious rooms.

Only now are details emerging of how tough the past few days have been. Of how much fight Hughes put in.

Those close to him tell you that he had been battling sickness and diarrhea heading into the Shield match against NSW.

But, with a Test spot in Brisbane right there to be taken because his good friend Clarke was battling a hamstring injury, he doggedly battled through. At 63 not out, he was on his way to a recall.

His death has resonated across the country and the globe.

Flags fly at half-mast at cricket grounds around the country, including Adelaide Oval, which had become his second home after leaving NSW. The same gesture has been done at Lord’s in England.

Around the country, young and old fans alike have placed cricket bats in backyards and front windows as a mark of respect. Every cricketer in the country feels the loss.

At SCG on Friday morning, just outside Gate A on Driver Avenue, bats and flowers were being placed from dawn.

Players from around the world will tell you there’s something special about the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Folklore and tradition is writ large within its walls.

It’s where St George captain Norm Provan embraced Wests’ skipper Arthur Summons in the mud after the 1963 grand final, framing the most iconic image in rugby league.

It’s where Tony Lockett landed the behind against Essendon to spirit the Swans into the 1996 AFL grand final.

It’s where Midnight Oil reformed for the Wave Aid concert in 2005 to raise money for the victims of the Boxing Day tsunami, with the Federal member for Kingsford Smith, Peter Garrett, leading from the front.

It’s where Steve Waugh scored his century off the last ball of the day against England. It’s where Stan McCabe scored 187 during Bodyline. And where crowds would surge in and out of the gates whenever they heard Bradman was battling.

Right now, though, presents its saddest moment. It has never had to deal with death like this.

The Australian players started to leave late on Friday. Brad Haddin and Steve Smith left mid-afternoon. An exhausted Clarke was the last to leave.

The SCG has become a place of sorrow and reflection. A place to say goodbye.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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