Australia has but two mythical heroes; Victoria Cross winners and opening batsmen.
One small NSW mid-north coast town boasts both and carries the knowledge like a badge of honour.
Frank Partridge VC is buried in the Macksville cemetery. He died when his car hit a truck outside town in March 1964.
His resting place is one of those simple military graves bearing his name, his decoration, service number and date of death.
Early on Friday before opening hours, the owner of Macksville Megasave wrote a simple message her Wallace Street shop window: "Phillip 408 God Bless RIP"
Phillip Hughes, the owner of the Baggy Green cap number 408, had died the previous afternoon and while Australia mourns, the loss cuts even deeper in his home town.
Everybody knew him. He may have been a national hero but to the people of Macksville on the NSW mid-north coast, Phillip Hughes was a schoolmate, the quiet humble boy from a family of banana growers who the whole town knew was destined for great things with the bat.
He was just 12 and had worn out most local bowlers' arms and ambitions when the Services Club organised a fund-raiser to buy a ball-pitching machine to sharpen his talent.
The town got behind him big time. His success paid them back in spades.
"We were all so proud when Hughsie made it," said Tracey Ormandy.
His mum, Virginia, knew he had something special even when he was little and his dad Greg trained and trained and trained, and the whole town saw it happen.
Residents are putting cricket bats outside homes. In the small shopping centre dissected by the roaring traffic of the Pacific Highway, people are talking in low voices, some shop assistants are red-eyed, there is a tribute book in the newsagency and everywhere people listen to the local talkback as scores of callers give their own personal testimony about the life of Phillip Hughes.
Vin Butler, principal of St Patrick's Primary School, recalled the cricketer's final year in 2000.
"In Year 6 Phillip represented St Patrick's at the NSW Catholic Primary Schools Cricket tournament and scored an incredible 159," he said.
Travel agent Anthony Miles lived with a relative of Virginia Hughes, just down the road from the family home in East Street.
"We all grew up playing backyard cricket. That's where Hughsie perfected his art," he said.
He was a left-hand bat and he couldn't hook because he'd break the glass doors so he started getting real good at cut shots.
"In fact he got so good that we couldn't get him out."
Outside town, on the way to Taylors Arm where his grandparents started growing bananas after arriving from Italy in the 1960s, fencers are working on Phillip Hughes' recently purchased property where he intended to retire after cricket.
He only bought the 90-hectare property a year ago and it currently is supporting 70 Angus cattle.
"He loved his family, this town," said Judy Ward, CEO of the Macksville Ex-Services Club. "He'd come home to rest and wind down. He was real quiet, but a country boy to his back teeth – he even used to enter chickens in the Macksville Show poultry section."
Ivan Spyrdz of Cricket NSW said the Saturday cricket game in Macksville had been cancelled.
Around midday, people in the town said Greg and Virginia Hughes had told locals they wanted Phillip to be laid to rest in the town.
Many hoped he would be buried in the cemetery near Macksville's VC recipient.
What they said
It seems everyone in Macksville, Phillip Hughes's home town, has a story about its favorite son.
The Nambucca Valley perhaps has more than its fair share of sporting heroes; South Sydney Rabbitohs full back Greg Inglis, and surfers Neridah Falconer and Trent Munro stand tall in local estimation but somehow Hughes occupied a special place in the town's heart.
They loved his success, his fame but mostly they loved him because he represented the best part of themselves and, for them, never really changed.
"He always came home," said Ms Ward.
"He'd have a drink with his dad, then go to see the boys at the pub and somehow always managed to be in town on junior cricket award night."
Of course he had the farm – a cattle property west of the town.
"But everybody knew he was a home boy," she said. "He was going to come back to Macksville when the cricket ended."
Locals Snow Tyson, Jason Ahearn, Roy Unterrheiner and Simon Donovan. Photo: Bruce Thomas
Jason Ahearn, acting manager of the Nambucca Heads Hotel, remembers playing Phillip Hughes when he first started A-grade in Macksville as a 12 year old.
"These bowlers would charge in and Hughsie would just stand there like a wall. It never budged and he'd flick them away like a master," he said.
"Trouble is he was hardly any bigger than the wickets and he'd whack them around the ground. It was most embarrassing for all of us. He effortlessly made a century that first game and although it was most embarrassing for us older blokes he became our hero. And his voice hadn't even broken."
Todd Bartlett recalled how many of the town bowlers had been worn out by the boy wonder and when his father Greg hurt his arm, the town got behind him and bought a bowling machine.
"He already had the moves, the style, the grace, the technique before he reached double figures but when he turned 10 the machines that the people of Macksville helped by helped him get his eye into champion form," he said.
Simon Donovan watched the young Hughes mature.
"He was too good to stay, Macksville had to give him [to] the world," he said. "And we're all the better for the years of enjoyment and inspiration he gave us.
"It's a real blow for Macksville. Of course, the town will recover in its own time but for the family, it will be part of their entire lives."
Roy Unterrheiner used to be the licensee of the Taylors Arm hotel, famed throughout Australia as the subject of Slim Dusty's song The Pub With No Beer.
The hotel is about 30 kms west of Macksville and a regular Sunday afternoon watering hole for locals who want to flee the influx of holiday makers.
"This is devastating for the town," he said. "We are a close-knit community and we all know one another. You're on the cricket team committee, you've played football, you drink at the same pubs, you went to school together. Phillip was one of us"
Snow Ticehurst was drinking with his mate Roy Unterrheiner in the Nambucca Heads Hotel. Years ago they loathed each other: one played for Macksville, the other played for Nambucca.
"There was no love lost," Ticehurst, a former butcher who had come down from Queensland when word got out that Phillip Hughes was seriously injured.
"I would have quite happily thumped Roy during our playing days. Now I've driven from Queensland to have a drink with my very close mate.
"That's what sport does. Everyone in town knows sport is the great balm. Phillip Hughes made us feel proud of who were are and what our community produced."