Vale Shane Warne

Shane Warne
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

In every athlete’s career, there’s a moment when we realise we’re about to witness the start of something special. For Michael Jordan, it was his shot to win the 1982 NCAA championship; for Tom Brady, it was the 2001 Superbowl; for Serena Williams, it was her win at the 1999 U.S Open; and, for Shane Warne, it was this ball:

All of the athletes above have something in common. Yes, they’re arguably the greatest ever to play their sport, but more importantly, they all define a generation of fans.

Even writing this, it’s hard for me to believe that a bloke who smoked 40 cigarettes a day belongs in the same conversation as the athletes above, But he does. Warnie captured the hearts and minds of Australians with a laid back demeanour, unfiltered honesty and a penchant for fu**ing up away from Cricket. A prodigious talent that was undeniable, but in a sport full of prodigious talents and stoic characters, Warnie stood out as one of the best, and as someone we (fans) could relate to.

I never met Warnie, but I feel like I knew him. My infatuation with Cricket and Shane Warne started when I was about 10. My Dad gave me a yellow ball with numbers on it for my birthday, and it had an instructional videotape. Shane Warne endorsed it, and he taught me how to bowl each delivery (leg-spin, wrong-un and the flipper). I practised in my grandparent’s backyard for hours and was thrilled when I was finally able to show my Dad the wrong-un.

When I turned 12, my Dad and I started travelling down to Melbourne for the Boxing Day Test. We’d get the first flight out of Canberra (usually around 6 am) and head straight to the MCG. My mum hated it, which I think secretly spurred my Dad to book it each year.

Growing up, I only wanted to see Adam Gilchrist with the bat and Warnie with the ball. I loved the game, but to me, these two were the driving force that kept me interested. They were incredibly entertaining and have become the benchmark for all who followed as a leg spinner or wicket-keeper.

I missed Warnie in 2002 and 2003 because of a shoulder injury and a suspension. But I did get to see Gilly. Even though I never got to see him score a hundred at the MCG, it was still apparent how different the ball sounded coming off his bat. It’s hard to explain, but the sound was louder and clearer than any other batsman.

I have so many good memories with my Dad from those trips; in many ways, Cricket was secondary. We’d get up early, have breakfast in the hotel, then walk across to the ground. We’d spend all day at the Cricket, then, during session breaks, we’d visit book stores, the Bourke Street Mall or a sporting goods store (Kickz101 was one of my favourites) and buy a whole bunch of stuff we didn’t need. Then, at the end of the day’s play, we’d wander the streets of Melbourne looking for a place to eat before heading back to the hotel to do it all again the next day.

I was lucky enough to watch Warnie bowl live at the MCG each boxing day test between 2004 and 2006.

One memory I will cherish forever is seeing Warnie (among 90,000 other fans) take his 700th wicket. I’ll admit I don’t have any photos of it. We didn’t have smartphones. It’s the last significant sports memory that I have that’s not documented somewhere on my phone. And in many ways, that’s what makes it so special. It lives purely in my mind, and I witnessed it live with my Dad, not through an iPhone screen.

My Dad and I stopped going after 2008. I had finished school and moved overseas, and my mum had enough boxing days without us. And, after Warnie and Gilly retired, my interest in Cricket had begun to wane. It didn’t feel the same; I didn’t feel like I could relate to anyone on the team anymore.

When I saw the notification that he had passed away, it impacted me heavily. More than the death of someone I never met should. It reminded me how fickle life is and that we only have a short time on this planet. It brought back all those good memories with my Dad, and in that moment of reflection, I shed a tear for Warnie and his Family.

I believe Warnie lived his life the way he wanted to, and although it ended abruptly, he crammed a lot of life into his 52 years. If he were offered a chance to start again, he’d do it all the same way. And, I think there’s an important lesson to take from that.

So I want to finish on this point. Shane, I want to thank you for all the good memories you’ve provided me and so many others; I want to thank you for your service to Cricket, and I want to thank you for reminding me that we only get one chance at life.

To the Warne family, I want to pass on my deepest condolences. Nothing prepares us for a loss like this.

Rest in peace, King. I’ll never forget you.

 

You don't have permission to register