News of the tragic passing of former Australian cricketer and commentator Andrew Symonds in a single-car accident outside Townsville on Saturday night has loudly reverberated 2500 kilometres away in Ballarat.
Before playing 26 Test Matches for Australia and particularly lighting up fields near and far in 198 One Day Internationals, Symonds displayed the enviable talent and mischievous nature for which he became globally known within the grounds of Ballarat Clarendon College.
Andrew and the Symonds family are still fondly remembered by many in Ballarat, the British migrants having had a lasting impact on those who knew them.
For four years in the early 1980s, Andrew's father, Ken, was a teacher, boarding master, and cricket coach at Clarendon.
Andrew himself began his education at the school as a young boy in 1980.
Symonds wrote of the time, and the reasons for his family's move from Charters Towers in Queensland to the golden city, in his 2006 autobiography.
"Mum's brother and his family had emigrated to Australia (from England) soon after us and had settled (in Ballarat)," Symonds wrote.
"Then, Mum's father, Tony, came out for a holiday and, not long after that, took early retirement and decided there'd be worse places to spend his twilight years.
"Mum was keen to be closer to her family, especially her dad, so when a job came up at Ballarat Clarendon College, Dad took it."
Symonds' love of the adventure, the open air, and sport quickly became apparent.
"Once again, we did a spell of indoor camping while we waited for our furniture to arrive," Symonds recalled in his book, focusing on the initial period at the Sturt Street campus.
"I started school (at Clarendon) and quickly learned the most fun to be had was out in the playground, especially as I'd just got my very first tracksuit," Symonds said.
Those who played cricket at Clarendon under the watchful eye of Ken remain in awe of father and son, the former for his expertise and genuine nature, the latter for his natural flair and decency.
Old Collegian, cricket aficionado, and principal of Heinz Law, Andrew Faull, recalls with immense clarity the raw ability of the younger Symonds.
"Ken Symonds was our cricket coach of our Year 7 team and then our Year 8 team," Mr Faull said.
"I remember the first training session.
"I can still picture Ken walking across the college oval down to the nets at the bottom end with his terry towelling hat and old cricket bat, a typical Englishman. He had young Andrew walking along beside him. Andrew was in Grade Two or Three at the time, dragging his little cricket bat along behind him.
"Ken gathered us around and said, 'Can someone please come out and demonstrate a straight drive for me?' Ken threw a couple of balls at someone. It was woeful. He called the next kid out, who was (also) no good.
"Exasperated after about five attempts, he then said, 'Andrew, could you please come out and show these boys how to play a straight drive?
"Young Andrew stepped out. Ken threw him the ball and he reeled off successive, perfectly-timed straight drives which went rocketing away.
"Ken sat back with a smile on his face. 'Boys, that's how you play a straight drive,' he said."
Despite being diminutive in size, the presence of Andrew Symonds loomed large at Clarendon.
"Andrew would be a permanent fixture at all of our training sessions and all of our games," Mr Faull said.
"Even from that early age, you got a sense there was something special we were witnessing.
"His ability was plain to see. It was scary how good he was, this innate ability, this fluency.
"I think we all realised then our dreams of a baggy green cap had evaporated and we knew Andrew could go all the way."
Mr Faull, his teammates, and his peers continued to follow the prodigiously-gifted Symonds.
"We'd heard there was excitement building around his potential, even before he hit the (Queensland) state team," Mr Faull said.
"When he made it, every opportunity we would try to find out where he was playing. When he made the Australian team, predominantly as a one-day player at the time, it was just so watchable. It was thrilling to watch him play."
Mr Faull firmly believes Symonds was the prototype for the modern-day cricketer.
"He was ahead of the game a bit," Mr Faull said.
"He broke the mould of the one-day cricketer and laid the foundations for T20 cricket.
"The versatility of his batting, whatever he chose to bowl, and his freakish fielding exploits really set him apart.
"Ken always used to say, 'Boys, if you are going to hit the ball outside off stump, hit it hard so they can't catch it'. That might have become 'just hit everything hard' with Andrew."
Sheer determination was also a feature of Symonds' career, according to Mr Faull.
"I think there was always the desire to show he could succeed at Test level," Mr Faull said.
"I think that's why there was an incredible outpouring of emotion at the Test Match at the MCG in 2006 when he got his maiden Test hundred.
"That marked him as arriving as a cricketer of the top level of all areas."
Former Clarendon staff member Ian Lovel, whose early years at the school coincided with the tenure of the Symonds family, happily remembers the young upstart and his caring family.
"(It was) the greatest advertisement ever for adoption, a credit to Andrew and his parents," Mr Lovel said, referring to Symonds' background of being adopted by Ken and Barbara Symonds as an infant.
"I remember this fuzzy haired kid - really tight curls and shortly cropped - who loved to play outdoors on his scooter and was always ready to catch your eye and be involved in any play activity.
"I imagined he would really keep his parents, who already had the boarding house, busy.
"It was great that he effectively had acres of outdoor safe space with hundreds of people who loved him and looked out for him."
Ballarat Clarendon College principal David Shepherd acknowledged the sad loss.
"We express our sincere condolences to Andrew's family and friends on his tragic passing," Mr Shepherd said.
"Andrew attended our Junior School in the early 1980s. His father, Ken, was a highly respected Boarding House Master and French teacher at Clarendon between 1980-1983."
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