SYDNEY – Andrew Symonds was remembered as a supremely talented cricketer with "a pure heart" at a memorial service on Friday for the Australian former all-rounder who died aged 46.
Symonds was killed in a single-vehicle accident in northern Queensland earlier this month, leaving Australian cricket reeling once more following the recent and unexpected deaths of greats Shane Warne and Rod Marsh.
Family, friends, fans and former teammates gathered to celebrate his life at a public memorial service at a stadium in the coastal city of Townsville, where he lived.
Former cricketers Ricky Ponting, Allan Border, Adam Gilchrist, Darren Lehmann and Ian Healy turned out for the man affectionately known as 'Roy'.
It followed a private funeral where a cricket bat, fishing rod, crab pot and a number of hats were placed alongside the timber coffin, local media reported.
"The service was just simply beautiful. In its entirety, it was full of sadness, but just such wonderful beautiful memories of a guy that just gave so much of himself to so many people unconditionally," Gilchrist told reporters.
"He was just a pure heart, found his way into trouble as well as anyone… loyal beyond belief."
Symonds, who played 26 Tests and 198 one-day internationals from 1998 to 2009, was considered one of the most skilled all-rounders Australian cricket has seen, bowling both off-spin and medium pace.
He also played many match-winning hands with his explosive middle-order batting and was a top-rate fielder who played a key part in Australia's back-to-back 50-over World Cup triumphs in 2003 and 2007.
"Great bloke, great teammate," said former Australia skipper Ponting, who selected Symonds for the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, where he scored a masterly 143 not out in their opening match.
"If I'm picking a team tomorrow in a Test match, one-dayer or a T20 he is in my team every day of the week.
"He would do anything if it meant saving one run or giving his mates a better chance of winning the game. You could say that about him every time he took the field."
Domestically, Symonds played for Queensland for 17 seasons while appearing for Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire and Surrey in the English County Championship and for Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.
After retiring he forged a successful career as a commentator.
"Andrew was a young teammate with a huge reputation," said Healy, who was master of ceremony at the public memorial at Townsville's Riverway Stadium.
"Supremely talented, a very hard worker," he added. "But one who didn't find first-class cricket immediately easy. So to see him ascend to the commentary box and then to master his analysis of broadcasting and cricket in general gave me a wonderful sense of pride."