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Queensland cricket icon Jimmy Maher says family and friends of Andrew Symonds are "doing it tough" in the wake of the 46-year-old's tragic death.
Investigations are ongoing into the North Queensland car crash that killed Symonds over the weekend, with his vehicle leaving the road and rolling near his home in Hervey Range, about 50km from Townsville.
Maher was a close friend of Symonds and played a huge chunk of his 206 first-class games with the late Aussie icon.
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A long-time captain of the Queensland side that his good friend also represented with distinction, Maher had known Symonds since he was a kid and they played under-10s cricket together.
Speaking to Karl Stefanovic on Nine's Today Show on Tuesday, Maher couldn't hide his anguish at the passing of his mate.
“It’s been tough, Karl,” Maher said. “It’s definitely tough.
"He was loyal, he was a true friend."
Good mate and former teammate of Andrew Symonds, Jimmy Maher speaks on the tragic death of the cricketer, as the country continues to mourn his passing. #9Today pic.twitter.com/BauK1bMZJy
— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) May 16, 2022
“Getting up here (to Townsville) and getting off the plane, you’re used to him being in the car and he’d always say, ‘Mahbo, you’re five minutes late’. I’d say, ‘Mate, I didn’t fly the plane’.
“That was the sort of bloke he was and it really hit home yesterday, walking through that door to know he wasn’t going to be there.”
Symonds leaves behind wife Laura and two young kids Chloe and Billy, with Maher revealing that the family is coping with the tragedy anyway they can.
Maher said part of the reason he wanted to speak out on the show was to urge the public to respect the privacy of Symonds' family.
"They just don't need people trying to get photos from their houses and things like that so please respect their privacy, they're all doing it tough."
“They’re hanging in there. We had a pretty big day yesterday and (sister) Louise and (mum) Barb and Laura and the children are all holding up as best they can.
Aside from Symonds' larrikin spirit and laid-back nature, a distraught Maher said one of the things he would miss most about the 46-year-old was how fiercely loyal he was as a friend.
“If he had your back, he always had your back,” Maher said. “He was loyal.
“Far away from the cricket field, the things that we shared were … things that I’ll miss. Family stuff and all those things — he’s just a true friend.”
With Maher choking back tears throughout, Stefanovic thanked the Queensland icon for his kind words and support for Symonds family, before wrapping up the heartbreaking interview.
Former Australia Test star and coach Darren Lehmann replied to a post containing a clip of Maher's interview on social media by saying: “Well spoken Jimmy, great tribute. Love to the family x.”
Paul Marsh - the former boss of the Australian Cricketers’ Association - also added: “Very few better humans than Jimmy Maher. His support of our family in recent times has been incredible and he continues to carry a huge load for his mates in these awfully sad times.”
Michael Clarke pays tribute to Andrew Symonds
Michael Clarke - who had a famous falling out with Symonds towards the back end of the latter's playing career - also paid tribute to the late icon on his Big Sports Breakfast radio program.
“A tough couple of days for Andrew Symonds’ family and friends,” Clarke said.
“Obviously extremely sad. Really tough. [I] just don’t know what is going on with cricket at the moment. Just devastating. It has been a horrible few months. These are the times you grab your family, friends and cherish every day.”
Clarke revealed that his close former bond with Symonds was a running joke in the Australian cricket team, with city slicker Clarke and outback boy Symonds seemingly worlds apart.
“The laughing joke in our team was complete city boy me, complete country boy him and yet we built an amazing connection,” he said.
“We did things I never thought I would experience and wasn’t comfortable doing but with him, [he] made me comfortable.”
Clarke said there was no better story to illustrate that point than his trip with Symonds from Sydney to far north Queensland, which culminated in a fishing expedition in crocodile-infested waters.
“I remember we did a Winnebago trip from Sydney to drive to Brisbane and flew up north to Esmeralda,” he said.
“We had two weeks. My job as a city boy was to organise the city trip, the start in Sydney and where we were going to stop along the way to Brissy and then he organised the back half from Brisbane up to Esmeralda.
“Talk about out of your comfort zone, we were fishing for Barra on these banks where there were crocs everywhere and again, no way would I ever do that on my own but with him he just made you feel so comfortable. Some amazing memories.”
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