WARNIE INC.

HE’S THE PERMA-TANNED PLAY­BOY WHOSE LIFE RE­SEM­BLES A BOND FILM. BUT THERE ARE SIGNS SHANE WARNE POS­SESSES BOTH A CAL­CU­LAT­ING BRAIN AND A KIND HEART, WRITES AN­DREW RULE

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - For more in­for­ma­tion on the King of Spin game and app, visit shanewarne.com.

He’s happy to camp it up in our plas­tic-fan­tas­tic Ken-doll shoot, but be­hind Shane Warne’s play­boy im­age lies an as­tute busi­ness­man with a gen­er­ous heart.

When a sud­denly se­ri­ous Shane Warne ad­mits he does his “best work late at night”, it sounds as if he is about to let slip a kiss-and-tell show­stop­per.

Wrong. He means the notebook he keeps next to the bed to jot down thoughts that strike overnight. There’s plenty on the to-do list – some for good causes, and some for Warnie Inc’s many ven­tures.

Which is why, on his 47th birth­day last month, the Peter Pan of the crick­et­s­peak­ing world is spend­ing valu­able time on an in­ter­view and photo shoot in Mel­bourne, 15 min­utes by Fer­rari from the Brighton tro­phy house he re­cently bought back for much more than he sold it for a decade ago.

Birthdays come and go, but busi­ness is busi­ness. Warne is launch­ing a new ven­ture, the King of Spin game and app, a vir­tual-real­ity of­fer­ing that gives on­line crick­eters a chance to bash one of his leg spins into the bleach­ers. “I bowl up to you ex­actly how I would in a game,” he says. “It’s as close as you’ll ever get to fac­ing me in the mid­dle of a packed sta­dium.”

His en­thu­si­asm to pro­mote the game means he’s al­most happy to be dressed like Bar­bie’s boyfriend, Ken, even if it means squeez­ing into eye-wa­ter­ingly tight clothes.

“I haven’t fit into size 32 pants since I was 10,” he says. He looks doubt­ful about the Stel­lar stylist’s in­sis­tence

that he wear no socks with sky-blue pants and a shirt so yel­low it would make a ca­nary blush. But he starts chang­ing, caus­ing the women in the room to leave. Warne grins, “You don’t have to go; I’ve got un­der­wear on.”

Safely trousered, he poses with a gi­ant blow-up duck, but is not keen on wrap­ping his legs around its neck.

“Sorry… it will look all wrong. Don’t want any more trou­ble with blow-up toys,” dead­pans the man whose bed­room an­tics, real and al­leged, have hor­ri­fied and amused mil­lions of Warnie watch­ers around the world.

Next, he pulls on a cream skivvy with a mul­berry jacket, prompt­ing Stel­lar re­porter Ruth Lam­perd to note he looks like “some weird cross be­tween Austin Pow­ers and a white Wig­gle”.

“It’s OK,” says Ken-doll Warnie through grit­ted teeth. “I love tak­ing the piss out of my­self. Re­ally… it’s great.” Then he winks.

THE GREAT BOWLER is good at field­ing ques­tions and bat­ting oth­ers away. Some, es­pe­cially re­lat­ing to crit­i­cism of the Shane Warne Foun­da­tion, fire him up. Why has the foun­da­tion copped it?

“Why is there a stage mu­si­cal, a tele­movie, 13 unau­tho­rised bi­ogra­phies?” he re­torts. “Peo­ple are in­ter­ested.”

It’s “re­ally hurt­ful” to sug­gest he would do any­thing un­der­handed in run­ning a charity that raises money for sick chil­dren. So hurt­ful that from now on Warne will in­stead do­nate di­rectly or make guest ap­pear­ances to help causes.

“There has been some in­sin­u­a­tion im­ply­ing some un­to­ward things have been go­ing on,” he fumes. “How it’s been writ­ten is just to­tally fac­tu­ally in­cor­rect.”

One rea­son Warne is so an­gry is that crit­i­cism, no mat­ter how strongly he re­futes it, can af­fect his chil­dren (daugh­ters Brooke, 19, and Sum­mer, 15, and son Jack­son, 17), now too old to be shel­tered from hos­tile public­ity.

Re­cently, he says, he spent three hours on the phone with “El­iz­a­beth” (Hur­ley, his for­mer fi­ancée). Be­fore that he went to a func­tion with Emily Scott, his ex-girl­friend, be­cause she was keen to catch up. They often (sur­prise, sur­prise) text mes­sage each other. As for Si­mone Cal­la­han, his ex-wife, she pro­duced the three kids they both adore, so what’s not to like?

Part of the se­cret to get­ting un­mar­ried and liv­ing hap­pily ever after, he says, is not to use chil­dren as bar­gain­ing chips. The other part is to be gen­er­ous when it comes to as­sets and al­imony be­cause, in the end, it’s about look­ing after the chil­dren they both love.

He ad­mits to miss­ing the kids when he’s away six months of the year. But he has come up with Warne’s White­board The­ory: iden­ti­cal white­boards in Cal­la­han’s house, his Mel­bourne home and his Lon­don pad, each syn­chro­nised with his move­ments so the chil­dren can con­tact him any­time, any­where.

“I’m a very planned per­son,” he says. “I know ex­actly where I’m meant to be, hence the white­board. Like, I’ve al­ready done 2017. I’m on Fe­bru­ary 2018 [now].”

IF YOU HAD to pick an event that turned a sub­ur­ban boy into a su­per­star, it might be an ac­ci­dent at a kinder­garten in San­dring­ham, Mel­bourne, in 1974.

It went like this: Keith and Brigitte Warne’s lit­tle boy scram­bles through a con­crete pipe in the play­ground – just as an­other child jumps off it, hit­ting him so hard, it breaks his leg. The break is so bad, doc­tors plas­ter the boy from chest to knee, and he spends months trundling him­self around in a lit­tle trol­ley. His fore­arms, wrists and fin­gers strengthen with the con­stant ex­er­cise.

“I can hardly re­mem­ber it now,” con­fesses Warne. But some­times he won­ders if that long-ago ac­ci­dent helped make him the best leg spin bowler in the world. Not that he’s big on look­ing back. Too busy jug­gling fun and fi­nan­cially re­ward­ing com­mit­ments.

An ex­am­ple: Camp­bell Brown, AFL foot­baller turned chan­nel swim­mer and com­men­ta­tor, was hav­ing a drink with him in Mel­bourne last sum­mer when Warne’s phone chirped. It was Ed Sheeran, in town on his world tour. He wanted to catch up with Warne to have a hit in the nets at the MCG.

“Bowl­ing to Ed Sheeran,” says Brown. “That’s when he’s not in Ve­gas play­ing poker with Matt Da­mon and Ben Af­fleck.”

IN CRICKET COUN­TRY, Warne is as in­stantly recog­nis­able as Brad Pitt. He’s the perma-tanned play­boy who glo­be­trots in five-star lux­ury, a celebrity guest from Lords to Las Ve­gas, hop­ping from commentary box to casino to cham­pi­onship golf course.

His life plays like out­takes from a Bond movie, ex­cept it’s not a gun in his pocket – like Mae West, he has never struck a good time he wasn’t pleased to see. His mates tell the yarn that, after leav­ing school, he briefly had a job de­liv­er­ing beds and got to test them with real housewives of Mel­bourne. Nudge nudge, wink wink.

Not all such tales can be true, of course. What is true is that all sorts of peo­ple love meet­ing Warne, es­pe­cially in Eng­land.

For­mer ace bowler Rod­ney Hogg re­calls see­ing the late Sir David Frost fawn­ing over Warne at a so­ci­ety match.

“Sir David would have cleaned Shane’s shoes if he’d asked,” says Hogg, who noted Aus­tralians mar­velled that Warne was go­ing out with Liz Hur­ley – but the English mar­velled that Hur­ley had Warne. Over there, he’s the big­ger star. Hogg saw Warne mobbed at Lords: “It was a stam­pede. Hun­dreds of peo­ple with Shane in the mid­dle. He’s the Brad­man of leg spin.”

But whereas Brad­man kept the world at a po­lite dis­tance, Warne is a celebrity like a soapie star. Men­tion him and peo­ple smile. He’s seen as a scamp but no scoundrel; the favourite un­cle or brother who stays out late. When he played his first Test, he looked like some­one’s mate fill­ing in un­til a proper player turned up.

It’s de­cep­tive, of course; he seems like one of us but isn’t re­ally. That il­lu­sion is why mil­lions of peo­ple who have never met Warne think they know him.

But as the man be­hind the myth nudges mid­dle age, you won­der if he might be shrewder and more sen­si­ble than he ap­pears.

There are signs of both a cal­cu­lat­ing brain and a kind heart. Some might find this sur­pris­ing. I did, un­til a col­league sug­gested I call Re­becca Buchanan.

The Buchanans, Ross, his wife Re­becca and their chil­dren, lived at Kinglake, north of Mel­bourne.

Black Satur­day ended that, in 2009, when wild­fire killed 173 peo­ple.

Like many oth­ers, Warne wanted to help. That first day, he and other TV per­son­al­i­ties took sports equip­ment to the emer­gency cen­tre at Whit­tle­sea, hop­ing it might dis­tract the dazed and dis­tressed chil­dren. That’s where he met Ai­den Buchanan. When Warne men­tioned the hat the 13-year-old was wear­ing, Ai­den started to cry. “It’s Macca’s hat”, he sobbed. “Macca” was Ai­den’s older brother, Macken­zie, who had per­ished along with their lit­tle sis­ter, Neeve, and their un­cle.

More than seven years later, Ai­den’s mother speaks highly of Warne. Of those who turned up “when the hype’s on and ev­ery­one wants to be bud­dy­buddy”, she says, Warne is one of the few who came back after the cam­eras left. “He’s been in­cred­i­bly sup­port­ive,” she says. Warne has taken Ai­den to cricket games, watched him play foot­ball and has had the Buchanans to his house for lunch. “He’s kept in con­tact with us all the way through.” WARNE’S KINDER­GARTEN IN­JURY is an ob­scure foot­note to his life, but it’s in­trigu­ing. Over­com­ing child­hood in­jury or ill­ness has dic­tated the destiny of many a high achiever.

Warne reck­ons that be­cause he and brother Ja­son went to school a sub­urb away from their bay­side home, they had few school­mates liv­ing nearby and had to en­ter­tain each other. That meant sport and lots of it.

The broth­ers honed each other’s skills with hours of kick-to-kick and net prac­tice. “Ja­son reck­ons I never man­aged to bowl him out in the nets, and he’s prob­a­bly right,” says Warne. Their fa­ther, once a handy foot­baller, liked ten­nis and swim­ming more than cricket, but played along­side the boys un­til they out­classed him.

Shane was an all-rounder, but even as a school­boy-foot­baller he showed the loner in­stincts as­so­ci­ated with his favourite games, cricket and golf – and, later, poker. He played with the St Kilda un­der-19s, but coaches de­cided his tal­ent lay in his strong hands, not his slow feet.

As a school­boy-crick­eter he was a bats­man who could bowl – an all-round abil­ity that had won him a schol­ar­ship to Men­tone Gram­mar. The school’s di­rec­tor of cricket told Shaun Graf,

“It’s de­cep­tive; Warne seems like one of us but isn’t re­ally”

St Kilda’s cap­tain-coach, about the tubby kid who could not only bat but bowl.

Some­one sug­gested wily vet­eran spinner Gra­ham Smith might help the rookie’s tech­nique. Smith watched the boy bowl a few balls and dead­panned: “He might be able to help me.”

IT WAS A POST-WAR love story. Brigitte Szczepiak, the mi­grant girl, mar­ried Keith Warne, the al­most-dinkum Aussie (his mother was English, his fa­ther from the outback) on her 21st birth­day. Shane was born two years later in 1969.

Keith had been a cane cut­ter, fruit picker and rice bag­ger but quit the road to re­turn to his fa­ther’s Coburg garage. He liked cars but grew tired of be­ing a grease mon­key and talked his way into an ac­counts job at the H.G. Palmer elec­tri­cal store in Flin­ders Lane. That’s where he met the blonde girl with the tricky sur­name, work­ing a ledger ma­chine.

She had stepped off a mi­grant ship in 1950 with her sis­ter and par­ents, refugees from Ger­many. Grow­ing up on a dairy farm near Apollo Bay, Brigitte was brought up milk­ing cows. She left school at 14 to work in a pub and then made her way to Mel­bourne.

JOHN DACRES THICKNESSE, known as “Thick­ers” in the press boxes of ev­ery Test cricket na­tion, looked to be ev­ery­thing “Warnie”, the ear-ringed Aussie, was not.

But Thicknesse, an Oxbridge man in a linen suit and Panama, was de­lighted by the whiz kid on his first Test tour in 1993. The friendly Warne talked cricket to him for nearly an hour. Thicknesse was im­pressed but not com­pletely un­scathed: the cheer­ful Aussie bot­ted a heap of cig­a­rettes.

An­other jour­nal­ist, Jana Wendt, would say it was “un­com­monly easy to like Warne and a lit­tle harder to ex­plain why”. She also noted that he used words like “stupid”, “dumb” and “dummy” about him­self.

Warne is too smart to claim a big in­tel­lect, but those who know him say he has a gam­bler’s nerve, sur­vivor’s cun­ning and per­former’s tim­ing.

When ac­tor-writer Ed­die Per­fect staged Shane Warne: The Mu­si­cal, Warne went to the open­ing, smiled and ap­plauded. In­stead of com­ing across as a surly prima donna, he played the good bloke who ac­cepted be­ing the butt of a two-hour joke.

Si­mon O’donnell, who played both AFL and Test cricket be­fore suc­cumb­ing to breed­ing horses, says Warne “is the smartest ‘dumb’ bloke I know”.

O’donnell re­calls Warne rush­ing from the commentary box dur­ing a Syd­ney Test to fit in a tele­vised “mas­ter class”. Warne pulled off his busi­ness shirt and tie and put on a Wide World of Sports polo shirt above his suit trousers and “car-sales­man shoes”. He put three mark­ers on the pitch: one for each of his pet shots. Then he stepped off his mark and hit all three spots with con­sec­u­tive balls, live to cam­era, ex­plain­ing it as he went.

“It was the most ex­tra­or­di­nary thing,” re­calls O’donnell. “Glenn Mcgrath didn’t have that much con­trol. No one did.”

Warne fits O’donnell’s the­ory that crick­eters are “nicer blokes” than foot­ballers. You don’t see “packs of crick­eters” caus­ing trou­ble, he says. They aren’t herd an­i­mals.

Spin bowl­ing is cricket’s loneli­est job, but Warne dis­guised it well. Watch­ers no­ticed that his cor­ner of the chang­ing room was the most cheer­ful; at func­tions he glee­fully ac­cepted drinks but dis­creetly poured most of them into pot plants. He was one of the boys without get­ting rat-faced to prove it.

A Warne con­fi­dant re­calls him sup­port­ing In­dian taxi driv­ers in Mel­bourne when they were un­der fire from the pub­lic. He was no doubt sin­cere, but news of his sup­port – am­pli­fied by In­dia’s do­mes­tic me­dia – didn’t harm his busi­ness in­ter­ests there. Like­wise his de­ci­sion to play In­dian Pre­mier League cricket. All part of a big­ger game.

Still, Warne doesn’t al­ways let busi­ness in­ter­fere with plea­sure. He is a 9-hand­i­cap golfer and rates him­self about the same in poker: good enough to mix it with the big stars but not yet to beat them.

A friend re­calls him at a world tour­na­ment in Las Ve­gas – vir­tu­ally un­known, but not in­tim­i­dated by the likes of Mike Tyson, Hol­ly­wood stars and oth­ers who fol­low big-time poker.

“They’re back at the ho­tel with all the big names, and the pro­fes­sional card sharps are do­ing tricks, but Warnie isn’t fazed. He does a card trick – then a smoke trick – then says, ‘See ya, boys,’ and walks away, cool as you like.”

“It’s easy to like Warne and a lit­tle harder to ex­plain why”

Pho­tog­ra­phy DAVID CAIRD Styling MA­RINA AFONINA Creative di­rec­tion ALEKSANDRA BEARE

SHANE WEARS Bally jacket, top, and boots, bally.com; M. J. Bale pants, mjbale.com

SHANE WEARS Marcs shirt, marcs. com.au; M. J. Bale pants, mjbale.com; his own watch and shoes

PLAY­ING THE FIELD (from left) Shane Warne at the start of his ca­reer in 1993; in form against Eng­land in 1997; with then-wife Si­mone Cal­la­han and their chil­dren; stepping out with El­iz­a­beth Hur­ley in 2011; in Las Ve­gas last year.

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