A A real-life real-life soap opera

Shane Warne’s achieve­ments on the field will take some beat­ing, as will his some­times ques­tion­able be­hav­iour both pro­fes­sion­ally and per­son­ally. DOUG CON­WAY re­ports

Townsville Bulletin - - Weekend Extra -

FEWcrick­eters will ever come within cooee of Shane Warne’s achieve­ments on the field, but can Warne now top his own rep­u­ta­tion as a hu­man head­line off it?

By ap­pear­ing to raise the pos­si­bil­ity of a rap­proche­ment with his di­vorced wife Si­mone, Warne gave ev­ery in­di­ca­tion he will con­tinue to star in his own real-life soap opera.

‘‘Who knows what the fu­ture holds there?’’ the world’s most suc­cess­ful bowler asked rhetor­i­cally as he an­nounced his re­tire­ment from Test and do­mes­tic Aus­tralian cricket.

‘‘We still live to­gether, even though we’re di­vorced. So that’s sort of a pretty in­ter­est­ing set-up. ‘‘She’s been sort of my rock, I sup­pose. ‘‘She’s been prob­a­bly my best friend for a long pe­riod of time. We’re still friends now.’’

The two, who di­vorced ear­lier this year af­ter a string of Warne sex scan­dals, at­tended last month’s Melbourne Cup to­gether.

They will spend Christ­mas to­gether with their three chil­dren at their Melbourne home, ac­cord­ing to women’s mag­a­zine re­ports.

Warne also plans to spend much more time with his chil­dren now that the bulk of his cricket com­mit­ments are over.

One fly in the oint­ment could be Warne’s de­ci­sion to hon­our the fi­nal two years of a three-year con­tract with English county side Hamp­shire, where he honed the text mes­sag­ing skills that landed him in so much hot wa­ter.

His re­tire­ment sen­ti­ments, how­ever, held glimpses of a ma­tu­rity so glar­ingly ab­sent dur­ing a ca­reer which pro­duced a steady stream of sala­cious and scan­dalous sto­ries.

They un­der­lined a swim­ming of­fi­cial’s per­cep­tive ob­ser­va­tion on Olympian Ian Thorpe’s re­cent re­tire­ment — that Warne and Thorpe are the only two peo­ple in Aus­tralia who can ap­pear on the front page, the back page and the so­cial pages of news­pa­pers on the same day.

Warne has taken more Test wick­ets than any­one in his­tory — his 700th looms in Melbourne’s Box­ing Day Test — but has had even more women than wick­ets, ac­cord­ing to Paul Barry’s unau­tho­rised bi­og­ra­phy, which es­ti­mated Warne’s fe­male scalps at over 1000. If that is to be be­lieved, Warne may have taken his men­tor Terry Jen­ner too lit­er­ally when he said the cham­pion spin­ner had ‘a need to be loved by ev­ery­body’.

The 37-year-old at­tracted rock star treat­ment which in­cluded some of the sta­ples of the genre — sex, drugs and gam­bling.

Warne was the blond-haired, di­a­mond­stud­ded face of mod­ern cricket, the most flam­boy­ant and con­tro­ver­sial star in a coun­try that idolises its sport­ing cham­pi­ons. He had flashy cars, fancy homes, his own com­pany (23 Red Pty Ltd, af­ter his favourite roulette num­ber) and a queue of spon­sors which made him a mil­lion­aire

many times over.

‘‘Some­times you just don’t be­lieve it’s all hap­pen­ing,’’ Warne said once of his whirl­wind life.

‘‘Ev­ery­thing is go­ing full steam ahead in fast for­ward.’’

But his high-ve­loc­ity ca­reer was pep­pered by ques­tion­able be­hav­iour and er­rors of judg­ment.

He ac­cepted money from an In­dian book­maker in 1994, as did team-mate Mark Waugh, for pro­vid­ing pitch and weather in­for­ma­tion, plead­ing stu­pid­ity and naivety when the in­ci­dent came to light four years later.

Many con­sid­ered he got off lightly when fined $8000 — just $3000 more than he took.

He ad­mit­ted ‘talk­ing dirty’ in a phone call to a Bri­tish nurse he met in a night­club, and was sub­se­quently stripped of the Aus­tralian vice-cap­taincy.

Af­ter be­ing axed from the Aus­tralian Test side in 1999, he ‘had a smoke one night when I was pissed’ and was soon back on the cig­a­rettes.

There was no crime in that, but the dan­ger was to his rep­u­ta­tion as well as his health — he was still un­der con­tract af­ter ac­cept­ing $200,000 from an anti-smok­ing com­pany to kick the habit.

A year later Warne was rep­ri­manded for grab­bing a New Zealand teenager who had snapped a photo of him smok­ing.

He was banned for 12 months in 2003 for tak­ing out­lawed di­uretic tablets, which he said his mum had given him to look slim­mer on TV.

But di­uret­ics can also be used to mask steroid use, and World Anti-Dop­ing Agency chair­man Dick Pound re­marked: ‘‘You can­not have an IQ of more than room tem­per­a­ture, and be un­aware of this as an in­ter­na­tional ath­lete.’’

The judg­ing tri­umvi­rate hear­ing his case found he had not been ‘en­tirely truth­ful’ and had given ‘vague, in­con­sis­tent and un­sat­is­fac­tory’ ev­i­dence.

Warne’s glit­ter­ing achieve­ments on-field will, for some, be tar­nished by other images: giv­ing a one-fin­gered salute from the play­ers’ bal­cony at Lord’s, storm­ing out of a news con­fer­ence af­ter a jour­nal­ist made a crack about his weight, and au­di­bly call­ing bats­men foul names.

Warne ex­pects plenty more me­dia at­ten­tion on his per­sonal life, even as an ex­crick­eter.

‘‘It’s nice to have that at­ten­tion,’’ he said this week, ‘‘but hope­fully I won’t have the same scru­tiny, the same in­ten­sity, the same judg­men­tal, moral­is­tic stuff.’’

Shane Warne fires off a de­liv­ery at the MCG

Shane Warne swigs cham­pagne from the bot­tle on the Old Traf­ford bal­cony dur­ing cel­e­bra­tions of Aus­tralia’s win over Eng­land in the 1997 Ashes se­ries Third Test

Shane Warne and his di­vorced

wife Si­mone

Satur­day, De­cem­ber 23, 2006

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