Andrew Symonds pulls a big crowd to Withcott
EVEN with the trademark dreadlocks he donned during his prime long gone, there is no mistaking one of Australian cricket's most popular characters.
On the field, Andrew Symonds was a crowd pleaser, whether he was crunching opposing bowlers for boundaries or athletically hurling his burly frame around the field to keep batsmen on their toes.
But despite his supreme ability and tremendous level of success over the course of a near 20 year professional career, it seemed as though controversy was never far away.
With his playing days now behind him, Mr Symonds keeps himself busy dabbling in commentary, speaking engagements, a bit of farming and raising his young family with wife Laura in Townsville.
There is no doubt he can still pull a crowd just as well as he could pull a loose ball over the boundary line and into the stands.
He served as the latest sporting superstar to speak at the Famous Mud Crab Lunch at the Withcott Hotel on Friday, which raised close to $7000 in support of LifeFlight.
Mr Symonds is no stranger to visiting the Lockyer Valley and he is very familiar with one of the region's favourite sons, having played more than 100 games for Queensland with Laidley's Andy Bichel.
Although he preferred to be "in the boat or in the bush” rather than watching the cricket on the telly, there is no way he could escape the ball tampering scandal which has engulfed the game in Australia.
Touching on the incident, which saw Australian players Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft handed significant bans by Cricket Australia, he said he was "hugely disappointed” with how it played out.
"Australians are known to be very competitive and uncompromising and what have you, but cheats we're not,” Mr Symonds said.
"That is very unfortunate that happened, it's going to be a scar that we're going to have to live with forever unfortunately.
"Past, present and future players are going to have to live with it.”
He believed Cricket Australia's response was lacklustre.
It is something he is very familiar with, following a lack of backing from the organisation after he was allegedly called a "monkey” by Indian player Harbhajan Singh in 2008.
"I think the thing that's disappointed me with (Cricket Australia's) reaction is the lack of control,” he said.
"When something like this, something big, happens they don't seem to get a handle on the situation and it leaks in the wrong direction.
"This isn't the first time its happened, it's happened many times.”