Michael Clarke recalls dodging crocs with Andrew Symonds on bush trip

Michael Clarke remembers dodging crocodiles with Andrew Symonds on an epic outback road trip as he pays a longer tribute to a ‘freak athlete’: ‘We were opposites in so many ways’

  • Former Australian captain Michael Clarke was once great mates with Symonds 
  • Their friendship fractured through their playing careers and was never mended 
  • Clarke spoke at length about his former mate today on his radio show in Sydney
  • He recalls a trip to a croc-infested creek and how competitive they were 
  • The former Aussie skipper said that Symonds brought out the best in him 

Former Australian skipper Michael Clarke has shared more anecdotes about his former mate Andrew Symonds, who died in a single-vehicle car crash outside Townsville on Saturday night – including an outback fishing adventure in a croc-infested creek.

The duo were once good friends, but their relationship fractured and was never mended. Clarke had originally posted a single-word tribute to his former mate, simply writing ‘devastated’. 

Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke celebrate victory following the ICC Cricket World Cup Super Eights match between Australia and England in 2007

The former Test skipper has also posted another tribute to his former mate on Instagram, saying: ‘Opposites attract … I loved nothing more than walking out to play for our country together’ with an image of the pair celebrating victory following the ICC Cricket World Cup Super Eights match between Australia and England in 2007.

Clarke returned to his regular gig on The Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday and recanted the tale of fishing for barramundi with Symonds on the banks of a croc-infested creek in rural Queensland.

‘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 with now departed former teammates Shane Warne and Andrew Symonds

‘I remember we did a Winnebago trip from Sydney to drive to Brisbane and flew up north to Esmeralda.

‘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.’ 

The ex-Australian captain’s Instagram tribute was accompanied by a warm moment between the two during a One Day International where they shared a smile and a handshake on the pitch.

Symonds was a keen fisherman and spent as much time enjoying his favourite past time as he could, occasionally sharing the experience with mates like his former friend Clarke

There were many such instances across their careers, as the two middle-order batsmen drove Australia to many victories.  

Clarke spoke about what a freak of an athlete Symonds was and how his former friend brought out the best in him.

‘We just had a really good connection,’ Clarke said.

‘Some of the things we both enjoyed about batting [were] running between the wickets or even how competitive we were at fielding at training – to try and improve our fielding – brought the best out of me.

‘Very fortunate to have spent so much time with him on and off the field, to have played with him, probably the most athletic cricketer I played with. 

‘Absolute freak of an athlete — speed, power, watching him dive and take a catch, a great fielder as well.’ 

It is not yet known how Symonds came to grief after his vehicle left the road and rolled about 50km outside of Townsville. 

Clarke said the duo would compete on and off the field and that Symonds helped bring out the best in the former Australian cricket captain.

An autopsy has not yet been conducted, with Townsville Acting Chief Superintendent Chris Lawson telling the Townsville Bulletin there was no qualified doctor available in Townsville.

‘That will depend on when a doctor can be flown up [to Townsville],’ Superintendent Lawson said.

Local Waylon Townson was first on the scene at the crash site and tried to revive Symonds.

‘He was stuck in there, so I tried to pull him out to start to do CPR and checked his pulse and that but I didn’t get much response from him,’ he told Channel 9.

Channel 9 reporter Mia Glover said on Monday morning ‘you can see that there’s a lot of brake marks on the road from where his car veered off before it eventually rolled’.

‘At this stage police still have no idea why he left the road.

‘One rumour that’s going around by locals is he may have swerved to miss an animal but everything’s under investigation at the moment.’ 

Symonds and Clarke share a candid moment ahead of the 2006 Boxing Day Test

The duo were devastating together in the middle order of the Aussie ODI team

Clarke had the best seat in the house for Symonds’ greatest One Day International knock of 156 that included 12 boundaries and eight sixes at a strike rate of 122.83. 

He was at the other end for much of that knock as the duo put on 220 runs for the fifth wicket against New Zealand in 2005.

Symonds had failed in the two Tests against West Indies before the ODI series and was facing media scrutiny. So he took out his frustrations against the Black Caps alongside his good mate at the time.     

They fell just three runs short of the highest ever fifth wicket partnership at the time set by Indian batsmen Mohammad Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja against Sri Lanka.

Clarke and Symonds celebrate winning the 2006/07 Ashes after victory in the fifth and final Test against England at the SCG in Sydney

The duo also shared a moment together on the field during the 2005/06 VB Series between Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa when Symonds was dismissed under bizarre circumstances. 

He punched the ball straight back down the ground off the bowling of Sri Lankan off-spinner Jehan Mubarak. However, the ball collided with Clarke, despite his efforts to get out of the way, spooning up for Sri Lankan captain Tillakaratne Dilshan to take the easiest of catches. 

As Symonds walked off the field, he gestured to Clarke and said, ‘You owe me a beer, mate.’

‘Hope @MClarke23 bought him the drink he owed,’ cricket fan Shekhar Gurung posted on Twitter.

‘I certainly did,’ Clarke replied with a broken heart emoji.

Clarke and Symonds pose with the ICC World Cup trophy in the changing rooms after the final between Australia and Sri Lanka at the Kensington Oval on April 28, 2007

A cricket fan who used to live next door to Symonds also said Clarke was found passed out on his mate’s driveway after a big night together. Clarke shared the anecdote on Twitter with another broken heart emoji. 

‘I was fortunate enough to live next door to Andrew Symonds when he first cracked the Aussie side. There wouldn’t be a weekend go by without a knock at the door at all hours of the day or night wanting a bed as he’d lost his keys to his house,’ the fan posted.

‘Or he’d want the missus to iron a shirt or lend him a belt as he was going out. I remember early one morning as I left for work I stumbled upon @MClarke23 asleep [pre-captaincy] on the driveway after a few too many waters the night before.’

However, the first significant cracks in their friendship appeared in the 2007-08 India-Australia Test series held in Australia when the infamous ‘Monkeygate’ scandal broke.

Symonds and Singh had many battles on the pitch, but would later become friends and teammates in the Indian Premier League

Symonds alleged that Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh had referred to him as a ‘monkey’ in a heated altercation. India argued that the controversial spinner had said, ‘Teri ma ki’ [your mother’s], which is a slur in Hindi.

Clarke famously won that Test in Sydney in the final over of the day, but Symonds said his mate had failed to have his back when the matter was hauled before match referee Mike Procter.

‘The stump microphone evidence disappeared. It was just one thing after another. That weighed heavily on me. I started drinking heavily. I had the Australian Captain Ricky Ponting backing me. Adam Gilchrist, Matthew Hayden backed me. They were good friends and still are,’ Symonds said on The Brett Lee Podcast this year.

Clarke wrote in his autobiography ‘My Story’ that Symonds should not have pushed the issue as far as he did.

‘I would be very honest about where I saw the situation at the SCG at that time. I was close to Andrew Symonds. I asked him whether he was racially vilified. It was not about the racial vilification of Andrew. It should have ended right there,’ he wrote. 

Symonds died at about 10.30pm on Saturday in Hervey Range, 50km west of Townsville in far north Queensland , when his car left the road and rolled.

The star all-rounder opened up on his rift with Michael Clarke to reveal jealousy and money drove the pair apart when he spoke on the Brett Lee podcast just last month.

He believed Clarke became envious when he signed a huge $1.8million 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 podcast.

‘Money does funny things. It’s a good thing but it can be a poison and I reckon it may have poisoned our relationship.’  

Their mateship came to an end in 2008, when Symonds was sent home from a Test match in Darwin when he chose fishing over a compulsory team meeting. He felt Clarke – who was Test captain by then – had betrayed him. 

Symonds’ wife Laura also expressed her shock after his sudden death. 

The late Australian cricketer Andrew Symonds (right) is pictured with wife Laura and their son Billy

‘We are still in shock – I’m just thinking of the two kids,’ Ms Symonds said on Sunday morning.

‘He was such a big person and there is just so much of him in his kids.’

She and children Chloe and Billy flew from Sydney to Townsville on Sunday morning after being told of Symonds’ death.

‘He was the most laid back person. Nothing stressed him out. He was an extremely chilled operator. So practical,’ Ms Symonds told News Corp.

She said the retired all-rounder was ‘extremely self-conscious about his intellect and would say ‘I didn’t go to uni and don’t have degrees’, but he was so practical and really intelligent in his own way’. 

Shane Warne’s daughter Brooke, along with teammates, also expressed their sympathy. Warne and Symonds had been close friends as well as teammates.

Brooke posted a picture of Shane Warne and two of his children, including her, with Symonds to social media, saying ‘Rest in Peace Roy’. Symonds was known as Roy to many because his juniors coach thought he resembled Brisbane NBL star Leroy Loggins.

‘Heaven has gained another Angel,’ she added. Brooke also posted a separate picture of her with Symonds online.  

Brooke Warne posted a picture of Shane Warne with two of his children, including Brooke, with Andrew Symonds to social media, saying ‘Rest in Peace Roy’. Symonds was known as Roy to many

Shane Warne’s daughter Brooke posted a picture to social media of her with her dad’s friend Andrew Symonds

Two months ago, Symonds expressed his shock over Warne’s death.

‘I’m hoping this is all a bad dream I just can’t get my head around never seeing you again,’ he wrote.

‘Love to all the Warne family I’m speechless.’

The close mates spent last New Year’s Eve together at The Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda, Melbourne, along with their former teammate Michael Hussey.

Australian cricket legend Andrew Symonds (pictured) has died in a car crash in Queensland

Andrew Symonds (left) arrives for the State Memorial Service for cricket legend Shane Warne at the MCG in Melbourne on Wednesday, March 30, 2022. Symonds was killed in a car crash on Saturday night

 Former teammates have also paid tribute.

‘This really hurts,’ said former Australian captain Adam Gilchrist on social media.

Former England player Michael Vaughan wrote: ‘Simmo .. This doesn’t feel real.’

Both included the letters RIP – rest in peace – in their messages, as did Jason Gillespie, who said it was ‘horrendous news to wake up to’.

He added that he was ‘utterly devastated. We are all gonna miss you mate.’

Former Australian cricketer Mark Taylor paid tribute to Symonds on Channel 9.

‘Symo. He was an adventurer,’ he said. ‘I can’t quite believe it. Another tragic day for cricket.

‘Bad things do happen in threes – Rod Marsh earlier this year, not long after that obviously Shane Warne and now Simmo. Another terrible day for cricket,’ said Taylor.

Former Australian captain Adam Gilchrist was among those paying tribute to Andrew Symonds on social media (pictured)

He said that Symonds loved outdoor adventures such as fishing, hiking and camping.

‘I took Symo out one day fishing here on Sydney Harbour with The Cricket Show many years ago and just watching him flow a fly lure around boats was great to watch.

‘He was entertainer with the bat when it came to cricket, and as you say he was an imposing guy.’

Taylor said Symonds was earmarked as a white ball player. ‘He wanted to prove to the world he could play Test cricket and he did that way.

‘He was just an entertainer. In an era where professionalism really is a throwaway word that we use probably too often. Symo was the older sort of guy.

‘At times he got in trouble for not going to training or maybe having a few too many beers, but that is the way he lived his life and the way he wanted to play his cricket also.’

Cricket Australia chairman Lachlan Henderson also paid tribute to Symonds.

‘Australian cricket has lost another of its very best. Andrew was a generational talent who was instrumental in Australia’s success at World Cups and as part of Queensland’s rich cricket history,’ he said.

‘He was a cult figure to many who was treasured by his fans and friends.

‘On behalf of Australian cricket our deepest sympathies are with Andrew’s family, teammates, and friends.’

Allan Border, who led the national team in the 1980s and 90s, was also full of praise for Symonds.

‘People liked his very laid-back style,’ Border said. ‘He lived in Townsville. When I spoke to him, I think he still had a hundred head of cattle he used to muster.

‘Symo away from the cameras and away from the spotlight, loved, I think, a bit of solitude and that is why he loved his fishing. Loved his own time.’

Pakistan cricket great Shoaib Akhtar said he was ‘Devastated to hear about Andrew Symonds passing away …

‘We shared a great relationship on & off the field. Thoughts & prayers with the family.

Jason Gillespie also paid tribute to Symonds in a Twitter message (pictured) on Sunday morning

Andrew Symonds, who died suddenly on Saturday night, is pictured playing for the Bulls during the Twenty20 Big Bash match between the Queensland Bulls and the Western Australian Warriors at The Gabba on January 16, 2010 in Brisbane

Former Australia all-rounder Andrew Symonds, shown diving to make a century for Lancashire, has died in a car crash aged 46

Breakdown in relationship between Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke 

Speaking on The Brett Lee Podcast last month, Andrew Symonds indicated that Michael Clarke may have become jealous when Symonds was highly sought-after when the Indian Premier League started.

All-rounder Symonds was an ideal T20 cricketer and became the most expensive overseas player at the inaugural IPL auction, signing with Deccan Chargers for $1.8million.

‘We became close. When he (Clarke) came into the side I used to bat with him a lot,’ Symonds told Lee.

‘So when he came into the side I really looked after him. That built a bond.

‘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 (with Clarke) there.

Andrew Symonds (right) hobbles in pain as teammate Michael Clarke (left) looks on on the second day of the second Test Match against Sri Lanka in Hobart on 17 November 2007. Once close friends, the pair later fell out

‘Money does funny things. It’s a good thing but it can be a poison and I reckon it may have poisoned our relationship.

‘I’ve got enough respect for him to probably not go into detail about what was said.

‘My friendship with him is no longer and I’m comfortable with that, but I’m not gonna sit here and start slinging mud,’ Symonds said. 

In his 2015 Ashes Diary, Clarke wrote that ‘Andrew Symonds went on TV to criticise my leadership. I’m sorry, but he is not a person to judge anyone on leadership.

‘This is a guy who turned up drunk to play for his country. It’s pretty rich for him to be throwing rocks.’

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