Aussie cricket legend Dean Jones has been honoured by his close friends and family at a private funeral on the hallowed turf of the MCG on Thursday.
The Aussie icon was in India to commentate the IPL but died aged 59 when he was unable to be revived after suffering a heart attack and collapsing in his Mumbai hotel.
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In a service limited to just 10 of Jones’ closest friends and family, including wife Jane and daughters Phoebe and Isabella, Jones was farewelled with a final lap of honour around the venue he made his own when batting for Australia and Victoria.
Hits from INXS and Elton John — who were both friends of the popular Aussie cricketer — were played during the emotional lap of honour, including John’s iconic pop hit Rocketman.
Jane posted a heartbreaking tweet after the service, writing: “Till we meet again” followed by a broken heart emoji.
Phoebe and Isabella also posted moving tributes on Instagram.
“Beautiful and a very moving tribute,” Shane Warne said. “Just so bloody sad.”
The Herald Sun reported a hearse carrying Jones’ handmade Indian coffin was adorned with the Australian flag and a floral arrangement showcasing the batting star’s Test cap number 324 — as the No. 324 player to wear the iconic baggy green.
It was confirmed at the service that a larger public memorial will be staged for Jones once coronavirus restrictions ease in Melbourne.
Emotions were reportedly heavy inside the venue and tears flowed when a poem was read out in front of the mourners, written by Jones’ close friend Chris Driscoll.
“Hold Him tenderly, O’Mother India
For he was Our favourite son
Place gently the zinc white ash on his resting forehead
Anoint him in Linseed oil
Place old willow by his side
We wait for him, for his return.
No full breath drawn
Shallow gasps and disbelief
This force of nature, impervious to all assault
But not our grief
Stumps are called
The bails removed
Player 324, no more to prove
Zinc cream, his baggy green
The Ashes Tests
Champion of Champions
Now lay him to his rest
As we hold him tenderly in our hearts forever.”
Jane also paid an emotional tribute to her husband at the funeral.
“We have been deeply moved by the outpouring of love for Dean over the last week and can’t thank everyone enough for their support and for sharing their memories with us,” she said.
“It has been an awful time to navigate as a family, but I could not have thought of a more fitting place to say goodbye to my husband than under the lights of his beloved MCG.
“What better way to honour him than with the music of his friends Elton John and INXS echoing throughout the empty stadium.
“We’d like to extend a huge thank you to the Melbourne Cricket Club and the MCG for their willingness to create our personal tribute to Dean and for Cricket Australia’s support. We would also like to extend a big thank you to the Department of Foreign Affairs for ensuring Dean was returned home to us as quickly as possible.
“We will forever miss Dean’s energy, his zest for life, passion for cricket and his love for us as a family.”
In a statement provided through the Melbourne Cricket Club, Jane expressed gratitude for the immense support her family has received following the tragic loss. Jane and Dean were married for 34 years.
“My girls and I are devastated and saddened beyond belief to hear of Dean’s death in India. My beautiful husband, the love of my life has lived his life with every bit of energy at his disposal, and he leaves an enormous gap in our lives which can never be filled,” Jane said.
“He leaves us with so many wonderful memories that will last forever. At this challenging time, when our grief is so raw, we have drawn much consolation from the many messages of goodwill and support from so many people around the world.
“Given Dean’s special love for the subcontinent, it was especially touching to hear so broadly from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. We are overwhelmed by the scale of the response to the news of his death and we will forever be grateful for that.
“At this moment, we would sincerely ask the cricketing world to respect the privacy of our family. Details of Dean’s memorial celebration will be released in due course, so everyone has the chance to rightly commemorate his wonderful legacy and bid farewell.”