By Steve Flemming, archivist of the Ferntree Gully Cricket Club
On Friday 4 March, many of us heard the shock news that retired cricket star, Shane Warne, had passed away at the very young age of 52 while on holiday in Thailand. For sports fans, and especially cricket followers, the news impacted immediately, especially since it came soon after the passing of another legendary Australian cricketer – 1970s and 80s cricket legend, Rod Marsh.
Shane Keith Warne was born at the William Angliss Hospital in Upper Ferntree Gully on 13 September 1969 to parents Keith and Bridgette, who were residing in Ferntree Gully’s Johnson Park Estate at the time. As a consequence, many locals often claim him as one of our own! Later his family moved to Melbourne’s bayside suburbs. He grew up in Black Rock and frequented the sporting fields around Hampton and Brighton, before showing promise as a budding Australian Rules footballer and also as an up and coming leg spin bowler.
A short career with the St Kilda Football Club, where he played a handful of games in their Under 19s and Reserves in the late 1980s, soon gave way to his cricket exploits. He progressed quickly through the ranks, first with the St Kilda Cricket Club and then on to Victorian and Australian duties, being named as Australia’s 350th Test Debutant in the Sydney test of the 1991/92 summer, after just seven First Class matches – a truly meteoric rise.
In an international career that unfolded over the next 15 years, cricket fans saw one of the greatest players of all time ply his trade. Reigniting the almost defunct art of leg spin bowling, he bamboozled, befuddled, confused and in many cases mentally dominated batsmen around the world, creating an unrivalled playing record that helped Australia win matches and reassert its dominance as a world cricket powerhouse in all forms of the game.
Some of his career highlights include:
- A 15 year international career,
- 1,300 First Class Wickets including 708 Test and 293 One Day International (ODI) wickets,
- 6,900 First Class Runs, including 3,154 Test and 1,018 ODI runs, with a memorable highest score of 99 (caught slogging in an attempt to bring up his century),
- Named by the cricket bible Wisden as one of the five greatest cricketers of the 20th century and nominated as a member of the all-time best World XI.
Beyond retirement from first class cricket at the end of the 2006/07 summer, Warne continued to be a member of the international cricket community in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and also in the newly introduced Australian Big Bash competition, until officially retiring from all forms of the game in July 2013. Initially he joined Channel Nine as a member of its cricket commentary team, and then became a regular commentator on events and matters throughout the cricket world here and overseas, where his frank opinions were often front and centre among the sporting news of the day.
He lived his life in the public eye, often among controversy, or was brutally exposed via mainstream and social media. For sport and cricket afficionados, however, he will always be remembered as one of the greatest players to ever pull on a Baggy Green cap and represent his country. His immense contribution to the game as a player brought supporters back to cricket to watch or talk about him, the game or even to take up playing themselves. Every viewer, either present at the Test Match as a spectator (preferably at the ‘G’), or in their lounge room watching, knew that he had the capability of making something happen on the field every time the ball was in his hands. Perhaps, by comparison, only a handful of Australian cricketers before him could claim the same status…
Rest comfortably S K Warne, in the knowledge that you have contributed significantly to this great game and now joined the best cricket team ever assembled, not to live in their shadow but to move among the all-time greats of the game. Take a seat alongside Victor (Trumper), Warwick (Armstrong), Bill (O’Reilly), Don (Bradman), Keith (Miller) and Rod (Marsh) among the pantheon of the greatest of all Australian cricketers – you sure were one of them.