A little-known fact about Shane Warne will come as a shock to dozens of Australians who lovingly left VB beer cans at the cricket legend’s memorial.
Since news of his death broke, fans have flocked to his statue outside the Melbourne Cricket Ground to leave tributes for the Spin King.
Stacks of VB cans, packets of cigarettes, meat pies, cricket balls and heartfelt letters sit at the foot of the statue in honour of one of Australia’s cricket greats.
But Warne, who died of a suspected heart attack aged 52 at a luxury villa in Koh Samui on Friday, was not the enthusiastic beer drinker many Aussies would assume.
A rare photo of Warne holding a beer alongside English cricketer Kevin Pieterson back in 2005
Stacks of VB cans, packets of cigarettes, meat pies, cricket balls and heartfelt letters sit at the foot of the statue in honour of one of Australia’s cricket greats (pictured)
The legendary leg-spinner, considered to be one of the best spin-bowlers of all time, actually preferred spirits to beers and particularly favoured vodka Red Bulls.
Australian fast-bowling great Jason Gillespie exposed his former teammate’s aversion to beers in a dressing-room prank.
Back in the early 2000s, Warne caught wind that a group of Brisbane Lions AFL players would be joining the team for a post-game drink.
Gillespie said Warne always admired the old-school cricketer persona – the ‘fag hanging out, beer in hand’ image – of players from the 1970s.
‘Warnie always fancied himself at Aussie Rules, and loved that culture, so was keen to be involved,’ he wrote in a tribute piece.
‘When we got in the dressing room, he was looking just like that 1970s cricketer. Unusually for him, though, that meant holding a beer.
‘What people don’t realise is while he had the image of a beer-swilling sportsman, it was a myth. He was a spirits man.’
Australian fast-bowling great Jason Gillespie exposed his former teammate’s aversion to beers in a dressing-room prank (pictured, Warne bowls during a test match in 2007)
The legendary leg-spinner actually preferred spirits to beers and particularly favoured vodka Red Bulls (pictured, tributes are left for the cricket great outside the MCG)
As Warne motioned for some of the players to join him for a drink his confused teammates also began to trickle in from the pitch.
They were immediately confused by the cricketer’s choice of tipple but didn’t dare anything in fear of annoying ‘the King of Spin’.
That was, until a confused Glenn McGrath, who retired from cricket on the same day as Warne in 2007, walked in 15 minutes later.
‘What are you doing drinking a beer? Warney, I’ve played Test cricket with you for 10 years and I’ve never seen you drink a beer,’ he asked.
Warne replied: ‘What do you mean, Pidge (McGrath’s nickname)? I always have a beer on a bowling day.’
The attempt to save face only spurred his teammates to play one of the most famous pranks in Australian cricket history.
Warne (pictured in 2013) has been remembered as one of the world’s greatest spin bowlers
The 52-year-old (pictured in Melbourne in 2006) is survived by his son Jackson and daughters Brooke and Summer
Gillespie, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist, and batsman Darren Lehmann made a pact to race in after stumps and leave a cold can of beer in the dressing room for Warne, who played along for four test matches.
‘He’s sitting down and that beer is going down like absolute razorblades. All the players, support staff, everyone’s in on the joke,’ Gillespie recalled.
Finally, following a ‘blow-up’ during a bad day on the field, the pranksters were exposed after Warne finally cracked and demanded to know who was messing with him.
Warne was initially annoyed but soon admitted his distaste for the beers and had a laugh with his team, conceding: ‘Fair cop, you got me’.
British TV host Piers Morgan in his tribute to his ‘great loyal friend’ said the cricketer played one of the best rounds of golf in his life following a night of drinking.
Morgan said he remembered Warne having a few too many vodka Red Bulls and staying out until 5am, only getting two hours sleep.
The legendary cricketer pictured enjoying a rare beer at Ascot Racecourse in 2013
Warne dated British actress and model Elizabeth Hurley for three years (pictured is the pair attending a charity event in 2011)
The Great Southern Stand will be renamed in honour of the cricketer, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announcing the news on Twitter on Saturday (pictured, the MCG)
‘Shane, a tremendously keen amateur, had made the cut for the final day, but his idea of preparation was partying hard until 5am, fuelled by his beloved vodka Red Bulls (‘Bring me a new one every eight minutes until I fall over!’ I heard him instruct a waiter at midnight,’ he wrote in a heartfelt column for The Sun.
The Great Southern Stand will be renamed in honour of the cricketer, with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announcing the news on Twitter on Saturday.
The MCG holds significant importance for Warne and his loyal fans as it marks a momentous stage in the cricket legend’s stellar career.
‘I’ve just informed the Warne family that the Government will rename the Great Southern Stand at the MCG – the place he took his hat trick and 700th wicket – to honour Shane and his contribution to the game,’ he wrote.
‘The S.K. Warne Stand will be a permanent tribute to an amazing Victorian.’
Warne’s family on Sunday accepted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ offer of a state funeral for the legendary cricketer.
The cricket superstar turned commentator and businessman was found unconscious in his room at the luxury Samujana Villas resort on the island of Koh Samui on Friday.
Thai police said that Warne was staying in the villa with four friends, and when one of the group tried to wake Shane at around 5pm local time he was unresponsive.
Warne’s family on Sunday accepted Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews’ offer of a state funeral for the legendary cricketer (pictured, the cricket star attends at charity event in 2008)
Friend Andrew Neophitou desperately tried to revive him by performing CPR for 20 minutes – but Warne couldn’t be saved and later died in hospital.
Thai police revealed on Saturday that they found his room splattered with bloodstains from the prolonged CPR but ruled out foul play.
Two pools of blood were found on the carpet at the foot of Warne’s bed as well as three blood-stained towels, and one pillow, with blood stains also on the mattress.
Ambulance crews also reported a pool of vomit by the bed.
Police also revealed Warne recently saw a doctor about chest pains prior to his arrival in Thailand and had been suffering from asthma and heart issues.
THE WORLD REACTS TO SHANE WARNE’S DEATH
* ‘I thought nothing could ever happen to him. He lived more in his life than most people would live in 20.’ – Glenn McGrath
* ‘He has had a turbulent life but a very full life … you just felt, I certainly did, he would go on forever.’ – Mark Taylor
* ‘Shocked, stunned & miserable … there was never a dull moment with you around.’ – Sachin Tendulkar
* ‘I am shocked to the core. This can’t be true.’ – Viv Richards
* ‘We have lost one of the greatest sportsmen of all time!’ – Brian Lara
* ‘The game of cricket was never the same after Shane emerged and it will never be the same now he has gone.’ – Pat Cummins
* ‘He brought such joy to the game and was the greatest spin bowler ever.’ – Mick Jagger
* ‘Heaven will be a lively place now the King has arrived.’ – Michael Vaughan
* ‘Please no ….heartbroken. Already miss ‘The King.’ – Brendon McCullum
* ‘Numb.’ – Adam Gilchrist
* ‘I cannot process the passing of this great of our sport.’ – Virat Kohli
* ‘The man who made spin cool.’ – Virendar Sehwag
* ‘It’s just unfathomable.’ – Mark Waugh
* ‘The RockStar of cricket! Gone too soon.’ – Brett Lee
* ‘Genius player. Grand company. Loyal friend.’ – Russell Crowe
* ‘The biggest superstar of my generation gone.’ – Waqar Younis
* ‘Played hard on field and was one of the first to have a beer with you after.’ – Jacques Kallis
– Australian Associated Press