Flat White

Elegy for Warnie

6 March 2022

4:00 AM

6 March 2022

4:00 AM

Shane Warne is gone. An Australian is gone. An Australia is gone.

That he was taken far too soon goes without saying. But for someone so much larger than life in his achievements and personality, going suddenly at just 52 seems somehow fitting.

Some people are not meant to die in old age, but instead to burn brightly and go out. Warne is just such a one.

He lived fast, played fast, and always was a man in a hurry.

Warne could not be more Australian. He loved a beer and fag. He loved to party. He loved the thrill of playing high-stakes poker. He loved the company of beautiful women.

Above all, Warne loved to be Shane Warne.

Others have written about his being the greatest bowler ever, and how he revived the lost art of leg-spin and made slow bowling ultra-cool.

His record haul of 708 Test wickets.

His ‘ball of the century’ in 1993, leaving former England captain Mike Gatting staring at his shattered stumps in disbelief.

His determination to get through a tour of India on a diet of baked beans.

His astute cricket brain, which made him such an excellent commentator on the game, but whose brushes with officialdom stopped him using it where it would have been most effective – as a Test captain of Australia.

Warne was a giant of his game, but his Australianness also has died with him.

A Melbourne suburban bogan who could woo ultra-posh Elizabeth Hurley, and almost get her to the altar, was a bloke punching well above his weight. Millions of other Australian bogan blokes looked on in awe and cheered him on.

A knockabout boofhead who, as former English captain Michael Vaughan noted in his reflections on Warne’s death, celebrated his last Christmas eating lasagna sandwiches with heavy lashings of butter, while everyone else had turkey and all the trimmings.

A bloke for whom political correctness mattered not a jot, a bloke for whom, despite his fame and fortune, remained the same Warnie who lived for a good time, cared deeply for his family and his mates, and lived life to the full.

Yet a bloke loved across the cricketing world, whose lack of airs and graces enabled him to cross cultural barriers, and walk with princes as much as with the humblest of street kids.

The essence of Warne’s success is that he never pretended to be anyone but himself. He was who he was, nor more or less. If you didn’t like it, that was your problem.

Perhaps our current crop of image-driven political leaders could take note of how Warne lived his life. Being authentic matters. Keeping your head from being turned by flatterers and sycophants matters. Not having tickets on yourself matters.

A candle that burned as brightly as Shane Warne was never going to fizzle and die a wizened old man.

Unlike many other sporting greats who left us decades after their prime, including Test great Rod Marsh who died just hours before him, Warne will always be remembered as he was, fresh in our memories.

His sudden death, still young, is tragic for his family and friends, and sad for the rest of us. But surely Warne himself would not have been disappointed to have gone as he did: suddenly, on a Thailand holiday with mates, and snoozing while watching cricket on the telly.

Shane Warne was a giant of our time who never lost his common touch, whose values, attitudes, and tastes never left the suburban Australia of the late 1960s and early 1970s into which he was born – an Australia that the high priests of woke sneer at and denigrate.

His cricketing feats will never be forgotten, but neither will Shane Warne the man and quintessential Australian.

We truly will never see his like again.

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