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Australia says goodbye to legend Warne at emotional memorial

members of shane warne’s family and invited guests attend the state memorial service for cricket legend shane warne at the melbourne cricket ground (mcg) in melbourne
Members of Shane Warne’s family and invited guests attend the state memorial service at the Melbourne Cricket Ground

Shane Warne was remembered as a cricketing genius and maverick entertainer at a state memorial at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday where tens of thousands of people gathered to pay tribute to one of the game’s finest players.

Australian Warne, whose talent and personality transcended cricket, died of a suspected heart attack about three weeks ago at the age of 52 while on holiday in Thailand. Read full story

A private funeral was held for Warne’s family and closest friends in Melbourne last week but all were invited to Wednesday’s televised memorial where his father Keith mourned the loss of “a loving and caring son” and his former team mates remembered a fierce and mischievous competitor.

“Shane said of himself, ‘I smoked, I drank and I played a little cricket,'” Keith Warne said in a eulogy at his son’s home ground, where he took a hat-trick and his 700th test wicket.

“Mate, your mother and I can’t imagine a life without you. You have been taken too soon and our hearts are broken. Thank you for all you did for us.”

Warne is arguably Australia’s most revered cricketer after the great Don Bradman, who regarded him the game’s best ever legspinner.

Greta Bradman, the granddaughter of the Depression-era batsman and captain, sang Australia’s national anthem at the evening memorial.

Former Australia skipper Allan Border thanked “genius” Warne for reinvigorating his captaincy, while former England captain Nasser Hussain remembered a “great sledger” who emptied bars at cricket grounds when he started to bowl.

West Indies batting legend Brian Lara said Warne was the greatest Australian he had ever met. Indian cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar said he would miss him “big time”.

A slew of athletes, Hollywood actors and musicians offered video tributes for a player who injected glamour into test cricket and was a huge fan of rock music.

Briton Elton John sang his classic 1974 song “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”, while Chris Martin, frontman for Coldplay, sang the rock group’s 2000 hit “Yellow”.

“Shane is a classic, an Australian legend and I was honoured to call him a friend,” 11-times world surfing champion Kelly Slater said in a video.

Fans filing into the MCG before the memorial paused at Warne’s statue outside the stadium, taking photos of the flowers, beer cans and cigarette packets left by others in the wake of his death.

Credited with reviving the art of legspin, Warne made his test debut in 1992 against India, kicking off a brilliant 15-year international career.

Though celebrated as a cricketing genius, he also courted controversy on and off the field.

He was suspended for a year for taking a banned diuretic and his private life was often tabloid fodder.

Australians forgave him his many transgressions, however, won over by his down-to-earth demeanour almost as much as his 708 test wickets and Ashes heroics.

His younger brother Jason Warne spoke of intense childhood rivalries in sport and board games.

Warne’s friend and media comrade Eddie McGuire, the master of ceremonies, read a letter from Jason penned to Warne early in his career.

“Now is the time to put everything, and I mean everything, into it and make it work for you,” Jason wrote.

“So, come on, make some more sacrifices and give people the opportunity in 20 years’ time to say, ‘remember Shane Warne. We’ll never get another leggie like him.

“‘He was the best spinner Australia has ever had.'”

Warne is survived by children Brooke, Jackson and Summer.

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