Sports

Patriot, bogan and true larrikin, Warne knew perception wasn’t always reality


When Warne and Callahan separated just a week before the 2005 Ashes series, it was manna from heaven for the media. He recently called the breakdown of his family the lowest moment of his life and his biggest regret.

The famously on-again, off-again couple rekindled their romance in the years after the split but could never quite overcome Warne’s womanising ways. In 2007 Callahan revealed to New Idea magazine she received a text from Warne meant for a lover in London.

Shane and Simone Warne in 2002 at the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation dinner in Monte Carlo.

Shane and Simone Warne in 2002 at the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation dinner in Monte Carlo.Credit:Getty Images

“Hey beautiful, I’m just talking to my kids, the back door’s open,” Warne wrote. “You loser, you sent the message to the wrong person,” Callahan replied.

In 2010, Warne started dating the other significant woman in his life, English actress and model Elizabeth Hurley, after meeting at the Goodwood Racecourse in Chichester. “She was very down to earth,” Warne tweeted at the time, though he was worried she hadn’t understood his accent.

The pair’s relationship was another boon for the newspapers here and abroad. A veritable circus surrounded Hurley’s 2011 visit to Warne’s home in Melbourne, especially when – to the delight of photographers – a new mattress was delivered, bringing with it a heavy dose of innuendo. Warne later explained he was renovating and decided to upgrade the bedding too.

Shane Warne and Liz Hurley at Flemington in 2011.

Shane Warne and Liz Hurley at Flemington in 2011.Credit:Paul Rovere

By then retired from first-class cricket, Warne launched his own underwear range, Spinners, following in the footsteps of former Australian captain Michael Clarke – though arguably it was a more natural pivot for the Spin King.

“Getting up in the morning and putting on a pair of underpants is important for me, and I think a lot of people think like that,” Warne said at the time. “I’ve sent some to Michael Clarke already and he’s sent them straight back and said, ‘I’ve got my own’.”

Shane Warne launches his new range of underwear, “Spinners”, in Sydney in February 2010.

Shane Warne launches his new range of underwear, “Spinners”, in Sydney in February 2010.Credit:Jeremy Piper / AP

A poker lover, Warne became one of the game’s famous faces during its Australian renaissance after Joe Hachem won the World Series in 2005, and he was often seen on the cards at Crown casino. In recent years you might have also found him doing the rounds on dating apps.

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“His life is Tinder, beers, darts, gambling and cricket. Those five things – that’s it,” Warne’s friend Lawrence Mooney, the comedian, said last year. “He doesn’t want to go to bed alone. And he’s had more than we’ve had hot dinners.”

The cricketer’s legendary sexual appetites did not appear to dim with age. In 2019, the British tabloids frothed over claims Warne hosted a foursome at his London home that was so loud it kept the neighbours awake.

“He was having quite a party in there,” The Sun quoted an onlooker saying. “He left the windows wide open and you could clearly hear all the noises.”

Warne acknowledged in his book that his love for women had certainly landed him in trouble over the years. But despite all the dalliances, single life was “lonely at times”, he told the ABC’s Leigh Sales in 2018. “I don’t think there’s anything better than a great relationship,” he said.

He also made a telling admission to Sales about his image, one that his friends and close associates have confirmed in the hours since his death. “Perception doesn’t always equal reality,” Warne said, something he regularly liked to remind people. “I’m not a human headline. People think they know me, and most people have an opinion about me.”

Warnie the larrikin was not an invention, but for some Australians it may have been a projection. Warne told Sales of how fans would always want to buy him a drink or “do shots” with him, and he felt the need to “live up to the legend”.

“Even though you don’t want to, you feel like you’re public property, and you don’t want to let ’em down,” he said. “Suddenly you have four shots with this guy, and you have three shots with this guy … which is great, but I would much rather be at home on the couch with a couple of mates having a chat about sport or be with my kids watching a movie.”

Warne was an unapologetic Australian patriot – “Straya”, as he often called it – and his politics, insofar as they could be distilled, were accordant. He was an egalitarian who supported same-sex marriage and the use of gender-neutral terms in cricket such as “batter” instead of “batsman”.

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He was concerned – scared, even – about the impacts of climate change, including for cricket. He worried about the kind of world his children would inherit. “People want to put their head in the sand, and say ‘I’m not going to be around in 50 years’,” he said in 2019. “That’s just wrong.”

Warne didn’t confuse egalitarianism with political correctness or wowserism. In 2015, when Australia won the Cricket World Cup, some observers (on Twitter) criticised him for asking the winning players about their post-match drinking plans, complaining it glorified alcohol.

Warne was having none of it, tweeting: “Do gooders get stuffed. Straya is the best place in the world, not politically correct, keep it real. Aussies celebrate properly! #thirsty.”

“I’ve never met anyone like him and I doubt I ever will,” wrote teammate Glenn McGrath in a 2015 book.

“I’ve never met anyone like him and I doubt I ever will,” wrote teammate Glenn McGrath in a 2015 book.Credit:Jack Atley / ALLSPORT

In his 2015 book Test of Will, Glenn McGrath – who with Warne formed one of the most formidable bowling partnerships in the sport’s history – described his mate as “the man born to be king” and the team’s “unofficial skipper”.

“There were some BIG personalities in the Australian dressing room during our playing days, but I think Warney was bigger than all of them combined,” McGrath wrote.

“I actually think Shane’s off-field antics probably saved many of us from too much scrutiny because whatever it was we may have done, it simply paled in comparison to him,” he wrote. “I wouldn’t want to live his life because it’d be too full-on for my liking. Indeed, I’ve actually seen people try to do half of what Shane does and it destroys them.

“I’ve never met anyone like him and I doubt I ever will.”

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