Farewell to the Loveable Larrikin

The death of Shane Warne leaves a scar on Australia’s soul that will be long felt.

Although he stopped spinning wickets 15 years ago, Warnie never left his role as a central figure in our nation’s character. He remained larger than life on our screens, in our magazines and, unlike so many others on that cultural stage, in our hearts.

Shane Warne was a loved Australian because he was both so great and so flawed. He was a flamboyant but humble showman. As a result, the ‘Sheikh of Tweak’ never suffered from tall poppy syndrome.

On the field, despite the immensity of his achievements, he was still, well, oh so close.

He was almost captain. And he was left on 99 runs.

Australians wanted Warne, who did so much as a cricketer, to still do more.

And as much as Warne could be depended upon to achieve on the field, he was even more reliable in cutting himself down to size off it. His personal failings were endlessly played out in public.

These contrasts allowed Warne to somehow combine Neighbours with the majesty of test cricket. And we all enjoyed every moment of it.

His sporting best was brilliant and it was never far away. Give the new ball quicks an hour to do their work and then it was time to watch Warnie. He would be brought on to bowl. Then batsmen were bamboozled. Throughout it all, Shane Warne did it as a baked-bean eating bogan. Then he was turned into a statue by Victoria Bitter. I still have one in my study.

This did not stop for a decade and a half. Between 1992 and 2007 at cricket fields around the world he would take wickets. Hundreds of them. Shane Warne did this more than any other Australian, on a total of 708 occasions.

Then it would all be replayed that night on our televisions and radios. It was a soothingly repetitious ritual.

Shane Warne was centre stage in one of the great eras of Australian cricket and in a team that towered higher than any other. He exhilarated us.

In that lazy week between Christmas and New Year’s Day at the height of Australian summer, Warne would own the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Over a feast of Christmas leftovers, Australians would cheer him on. They were happy times.

I still vividly remember watching on television in anticipation and then absolute excitement as Shane Warne took a hat-trick there on 29 December 1994. It was the first time anyone had done so in an Ashes test for 90 years. David Boon’s catch to seal the deal was etched into the memory of a generation of Australian kids.

But the magnificent highs were matched by lows of equal strength.

There was the one year ban from cricket after Warne was found guilty of taking a prohibited substance. It was not performance enhancing testosterone. It was a diuretic. Warnie, a sporting superstar, was worried about his weight. Just like pretty much every other Australian heading past their 30th birthday.

And there was his marriage failure amid a string of salacious headlines and movie stars. Shane Warne lived a real life soap opera. It was unhappy fun as we watched on.

Earlier this year, Warne admitted that this was the lowest moment of his life and that it was entirely his fault.

Every marriage failure is a tragedy. Some can never be reconciled. Others can.

I think one reason Australians loved to watch Warnie years after he put away his large white hat was because we hoped that he would give us one more fairy tale ending; a love story that would be played out in his flashy style and still filled with the honest humility that makes larrikins loveable.

Alas, that will never be. Shane Warne has left the field.

Eternal rest grant to him, O Lord; and let light perpetual shine upon him. May his soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Author: Bernard Gaynor

Bernard Gaynor is a married father of nine children. He has a background in military intelligence, Arabic language and culture and is an outspoken advocate of conservative and family values.

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  1. Amen. Well done, Bernie. A well written, respectful, honest and admiring article on a truly great sportsman. May he Rest In Peace indeed.

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    • Well said; Bernie and Caroline

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      • Thank you both.

    • Bernard, your tribute to Warnie brought tears to my eyes. We never tire of seeing the wickets he took. Although I’d always been a fan of cricket, listening to it on the radio as a young child in the Queensland outback, I lost interest in cricket after Shane’s era passed away.
      Ah, the love story? We lived in hope. May he RIP.

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