Australian cricket great Andrew Symonds was a country boy at heart whose passion for hunting and fishing remained with him until his sudden death at the age of 46.
Symonds died after his car left the road and rolled at Hervey Range, west of Townsville in Queensland, at 10.30pm on Saturday.
News of his death rocked the cricket world and sparked an outpouring of grief from both teammates and rivals who remembered his stellar rise from humble beginnings.
His love for cricket was matched by his boyhood passions for pig hunting, fishing and camping trips, and he was dumped from the Australian side in 2008 after he missed a team meeting to go fishing.
Andrew Symonds on his final Father’s Day last year with his children Billy and Chloe. He died in a car crash late on Saturday night
The star created a legacy as one of the best all-rounders in some of Australia’s greatest teams, as well as being regarded as the best fielder in the world at the peak of his powers
Affectionately known as ‘Roy’ because his juniors coach thought he resembled Brisbane NBL star Leroy Loggins, he was one of the sport’s most entertaining stars.
Symonds was born in Birmingham, UK, on June 9, 1975, to Afro-Caribbean and Swedish or Danish parents, but given up for adoption as a baby.
He was adopted by Ken and Barbara Symonds, who worked as schoolteachers when he was three months old.
‘I’m an adopted child, right, so I don’t actually know my natural parents. I’ve never met them,’ he told The Brett Lee Podcast of his adoption last month.
‘But when I was six-weeks-old, my mother and father went to the clinic and they applied to adopt a child.
‘And so the way that things worked back in those days was, they got to take me home for a week and just trial me. A test drive.
‘And I remember mum tells the story that they took me home for the week and I played up and cried and was terrible, and so they went back to the clinic and were asked, “How did he go?” and she goes, “You know, he was an angel. He was perfect. We’d like to keep him”.
‘So they signed all the paperwork and I became Andrew Symonds, going home with Kenneth Walter Symonds and Barbara Symonds as their son.’
They emigrated to Australia soon after and the family lived in country Victoria before moving to Charters Towers in Far North Queensland.
Symonds’ British birth and his Afro-Caribbean background meant he could have played for England or the West Indies, but Australia was always going to be his first and only choice.
Symonds was one of the most influential sportsmen right up until his sudden death at the age of 46 (pictured, Symonds at the Carlton and United on day international at the Gabba in 2000)
Symonds did not take long to adapt to the rough-and-tumble Australian lifestyle and quickly fell in love with pig hunting and fishing trips out in the bush
His first exposure to cricket came from his father, who was obsessed with the sport.
‘Dad was cricket mad,’ Symonds previously said. ‘He’d throw balls to me five or six days a week, before school, after school.
‘And we’d play all sorts of games inside the house with ping-pong balls and Christmas decorations.’
Symonds played his first organised cricket for the Townsville Wanderers junior club, with his dad driving him 270km twice a week to training and matches.
Later his family moved to the Gold Coast where he studied at All Saints Anglican School in Merrimac while his parents worked at the school.
Symonds made his debut for the Queensland state team in 1994 and in as little as four years he skyrocketed to the global stage of cricket.
He made his international debut playing for the Australian team during the One Day International against Pakistan in 1998.
He was then called in to play Australia’s opening match in the 2003 Cricket World Cup after an injury forced Shane Watson onto the bench.
His cricket prowess took him overseas where he played for four different counties in his birth country: Gloucestershire, Kent, Lancashire, and Surrey.
News of his death rocked the cricket world and sparked an outpouring of grief from the community who have remembered his stellar rise from humble beginnings (pictured, Symonds on day two of the Second test match between Australia and Sri Lanka in 2007)
Symonds was a country boy from head to toe counting fishing among his many passions
Symonds also played in the Indian Premier League and commanded a contract worth $1.8 million in 2008, the second-biggest salary in the league.
But his illustrious career was punctuated with moments of darkness including controversial behaviour, alcohol abuse, and racist taunts.
In one ugly incident, spectators made monkey noises from the stands during the One Day series against India at Vadodara, Nagpur, and Mumbai in 2007.
A year later, Indian spin bowler Harbhajan Singh allegedly made a racial slur at Symonds after he confronted him during the third day of the Second Test at the SCG.
Ricky Ponting expressed his concern about the lack of support given to Symonds in his autobiography, At The Close of Play.
His love for cricket was matched by his country boy passions for pig hunting, fishing and camping trips
In February 2008, Symonds signed on with the competitive Indian Premier League and commanded a contract worth $1.8million
In 2009, an ‘alcohol-related incident’ forced cricket bosses to send Symonds home from the ICC World Twenty20 Tournament.
His Cricket Australia contract was reviewed before it was cancelled, marking the end of his international career for the country.
Symonds later told 60 Minutes he was not an alcoholic, but a binge drinker.
‘I go out and drink hard all in one hit – too fast, too much,’ he said.
Symonds was regarded as one of the best all-rounders who was able to play as an aggressive right-handed batsman and bowl off-spin.
He played 26 test matches for Australia and posted two centuries, but he was better known as a limited-overs player.
He played 198 one-day international for Australia, and won two World Cups.
Following his death, Cricket Australia described Symonds as ‘a cult hero during the peak of his international playing career and one of the most skilled allrounders Australian cricket has seen’.
In 2009, an ‘alcohol-related incident’ forced cricket bosses to send Symonds home from the ICC World Twenty20 Tournament
‘The Queenslander was a larger-than-life figure who drew a widespread fan base during his peak years for not only his hard-hitting ways but his larrikin persona,’ it said.
After retiring as a player, Symonds became a popular commentator for cricket broadcasters.
His rift with former friend and teammate Michael Clarke became apparent in the years before his death, and was said to contribute to his battle with booze.
The pair both made their Test debuts for Australia in 2004 and became close as they spent years playing together for the national side in the short and long forms of the game.
Symonds believed Clarke became envious when he signed the huge $1.8 million contract with the Deccan Chargers in the Indian Premier League in 2008.
‘Matthew Hayden said to me — when the IPL started, I got a pretty penny to go and play in the IPL — he identified it as there was a bit of jealousy that potentially came into the relationship there,’ he told the Brett Lee podcast in April.
Symonds married Brooke in 2004 before the pair split a year later. He remarried and is survived by his wife Laura and his children Chloe and Billy.
After he left the game in 2009, Symonds pursued his love of the outdoors in the country’s tropical north.
He played himself in a Bollywood movie, starred on the Indian version of Big Brother, commentated for Fox Sports in Australia and even starred in some rugby league games after almost switching to the sport in 2002.
Symonds loved fishing so much he missed a team meeting which prompted him to be dropped from the Australian side in 2008