Shane Warne – the starry-eyed boy of suburban Melbourne who became the king of spin – has been remembered as an irreplaceable cricket giant, a doting father and an Aussie larrikin at a star-studded memorial at his beloved Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The sombre memorial culminated with the re-naming of the MCG’s largest stand in his honour to immortalise his record-breaking career, causing the crowd of adoring fans to erupt into cheers and yells of “Warnie”.
The state funeral was attended by cricket legends, celebrities and political leaders, all paying tribute to one of the cricket’s most popular figures.
The twilight service featured video musical tributes and dedications by Warne’s celebrity friends Sir Elton John, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Robbie Williams and Ed Sheeran. There were also live performances by singers Jon Stevens and Anthony Callea.
The cricket great’s father, Keith Warne, commemorated his son as a doting father, a loving son and a caring brother, telling the crowd he was grateful the world loved Warne as much has he and mother Brigitte did. Warne’s death was the family’s “darkest day”.
Keith recounted a time Warne visited children in the Victorian town of Kinglake after the catastrophic 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, spending a day playing sports with families to lift their spirits.
“This was Shane. Leading with infectious energy, his giving and that beaming smile. He somehow could always managed to make someone’s day that little bit better,” Keith said.
“He was a person who made everybody feel very special.
“He was always about putting smiles on other people’s faces. Kids loved him, and he loved kids.”
Summer Warne – the cricket giant’s youngest child – told the crowd about the last time she saw her father. Days before leaving for Thailand, Warne arrived at her house to pick up his bag for Thailand with Bryan Adams’ hit Summer of ‘69 blaring from his car.
“We both started dancing with not a care in the world … looking back at that memory now, it is so incredibly special,” she said.
His son Jackson told the crowd he felt “robbed” at having his father taken from him, but reminisced on their times enjoying the “simple things: grocery shopping, watching movies or going for walks during lockdown.
He said father never pressured him to take up cricket and “just wanted him to be happy.”
The event also featured memories from Warne’s former teammates and opponents. During a panel Warne’s first Test captain Allan Border said the spin king helped “revitalise” his captaincy.
“I was lucky to have two years with Shane and just thank him for that,” he said.
Former England captain Nasser Hussain, who travelled to Australia from the UK for the event, said he found “no delight” playing against Warne on the field.
“He was the king bowler, the great bowler – but also the great sledger,” he said.
The memorial was attended by the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and Labor leader Anthony Albanese, and was broadcast live across Australia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and the UK – all places where Warne’s revival of the art of spin bowling inspired a legion of fans.
Throughout the two-and-a-half hour event video tributes poured into the stadium from what MC Eddie McGuire described as the “galaxy of stars” who Warne called friends.
Actor Hugh Jackman remembered Warne as someone who “sucked the marrow out of life”, while Danni Minogue described the cricket giant as “Mr Sunshine”. McGuire also read a letter from James Packer who said he and his family had “lost their sunshine” too early.
A video featured Chris Martin performing Coldplay’s hit “Yellow” from Central America.
“You may hear a rooster in the distance, which I am thinking of as him because he and a rooster shared some qualities,” he said, chuckling.
It was a fitting location to farewell Warne. The MCG is where Warne claimed his 700th Test wicket in 2006 and took his hat track against England in the 1994 Ashes. It was where he has always been most celebrated.
Warned had died of a heart attack in Thailand, on 4 March. He was aged 52.
A private funeral service was held for Warne at the home ground St Kilda Club on 20 March.