With the memorial for the late cricket legend Shane Warne just two weeks away, his grieving family has made an emotional visit to the MCG as plans for the evening service are confirmed, including a surprise donation.
Posting messages of love on March 15, his children Brooke and Jackson thanked fans for turning their father’s 2011 bronze statue into a makeshift memorial, saying how proud they were.
“We are so grateful for everyone’s support, the messages and love we have received is so special and touching, everyone’s support around our Dad’s statue is beyond heartwarming.
“We are so proud of our Dad,” wrote 24-year-old Brooke, as they quietly inspected the floral tributes, the jars of Vegemite, cans of beer and magnums of champagne.
Her brother Jackson, 23, simply posted a red love heart emoji, and cut a lone figure in a separate shot, as the close-knit family, including youngest sibling Summer, 20, the family dog, and their mother and Warne’s ex-wife Simone Callahan cuddled together outside Gate 2 of the MCG, where the statue is located.
Although his former British fiancée, actress Elizabeth Hurley, also responded with a love heart emoji, it was one fan who echoed the sentiments of everyone:
“Your father was everyone’s hero.”
A private service and a public memorial
Shane Warne, 52, died on March 4 from a suspected heart attack during a trip with friends on the island of Koh Samui in Thailand.
An autopsy later confirmed he died of natural causes.
A private jet owned by Australian millionaire Terry Peabody was used to repatriate his body to Melbourne on March 10, where it was met by his immediate family, including his mother Bridgette, holding a single white rose.
It was revealed on Wednesday afternoon that Warne will be farewelled at a private service on Sunday, with the cricketer’s close friends and colleagues joining his grieving family for tributes and reminiscences.
The family had previously accepted the state government’s offer of a state funeral, which will be broadcast by four major national networks (ABC, Nine, Seven and Foxtel) when it is held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 30.
The MCG was the stage of the leg-spinner’s famous Ashes hat-trick in 1994 and 700th Test wicket on Boxing Day in 2006, his final series before he retired from international cricket.
Warne’s parents accepted Sports Minister Martin Pakula’s offer to rename the Great Southern Stand the SK Warne stand on March 7, although it was revealed by the Seven Network on Tuesday the family’s preference was for it to be called the Shane Warne Stand.
Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive Stuart Fox revealed the renaming of the Great Southern Stand to the Shane Warne Stand could take place during the memorial.
“We obviously have the state government’s memorial service, there may well be an unveiling at that point in time,” he told SEN.
“We’re all working towards the renaming of the stand.”
A statement from the Victorian Department of Premier and Cabinet on March 11 said the highly anticipated event will be live-streamed (free tickets will also be available for the telecast at the Melbourne Cricket Ground), held in the evening (expected to start at 7pm) and be open to the general public.
With the ground seating up to 100,000 people, the event will be free with a public ballot held to secure tickets and seating.
“Mr Warne didn’t just inspire a cricketing generation – he defined it,” the statement read.
“Born for the big occasion, he gave us irreplaceable MCG memories: The Ashes hat-trick, his 700th wicket and calming Bay 13 in his trackies.
“Mr Warne’s performance on the pitch drew us to the game that he cared so deeply for.”
Plans are still being finalised as to how the evening will unfold, but it’s likely the biggest names in music, including Ed Sheeran and Elton John, will reportedly appear live-streamed on big screens as they are on tour in the UK and the US respectively.
Good friend Coldplay frontman Chris Martin – with whom Warne played the harmonica on stage in 2018 – and Hurley are named among those who are likely to attend.
‘Deeply humbled’: Instead of floral tributes, donations go to brain research
Instead of floral tributes as a mark of respect to one of the cricketers of the century, people can donate to leading Australian brain research centre, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health.
Florey Institute clinical director Professor Trevor Kilpatrick told The New Daily on Wednesday he was “deeply humbled to learn of the request made by Shane Warne’s family to consider donating to the Florey Institute instead of sending flowers”.
Professor Kilpatrick said that every year, about five million Australians are diagnosed with a neurological or mental health condition that they study.
“Our researchers work tirelessly to find answers, treatments and improved diagnoses for serious brain and mind diseases.
“We are honoured that the impact of our research has been recognised through this gesture by the Warne family.”
The Florey Institute’s research extends to more than 20 different neurological conditions, including depression and other mental health conditions, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, stroke, epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
Celebrity photographer captures the essence of Warne
Meanwhile, an iconic portrait of Shane Warne that has been hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra since 2016 has been receiving renewed attention following his tragic, untimely death.
Celebrity photographer Robin Sellick shot Warne’s portrait on the tennis court of his massive Brighton mansion in Melbourne that year, and recalled resisting the famed charisma of the leg-spinner to capture who he was as he reached the end of his international playing career.
Despite the couple’s very public separation, he remembers seeing Ms Callahan in their kitchen making a sandwich.
“I didn’t warm too much to him, I sort of kept him a little bit distant – that gave the photograph an interesting tension.”
Warne arrived from the hairdresser with a hairdo too spiky for the photo, and much to Sellick’s annoyance, the celebrity athlete was also late for the shoot.
But the awkwardness and tension created was exactly what was needed for the brightly coloured shot, which shows Warne staring straight at the lens in the same manner he might try to psych out an English batsman.
“I think I told him about determination, and I really pushed him to get that expression … the intensity of his stare,” Mr Sellick remembers.
“In order to get a great portrait of somebody you have to be able to meet them at eye level,” he said.
“Whether he was any good at playing cricket, or any good at being a human didn’t matter, he was a standout, unique person.”