News Corp senior racing writer – and former cricket writer – Ben Dorries on what it was like to be in Shane Warne’s orbit.
Anyone who’s walked in Warney’s orbit has a favorite story.
Mine watched the tall man go from cucumber-cool to the most restless man on the planet in minutes on the back stairs of the Lord’s Press Gallery.
It was 2010 and I was covering the Aussie Test series against Pakistan in England – the one where Steve Smith made his Test debut as a leg thrower and No. 8 batsman.
Australia’s big boss sent texts, emails and phones.
A Current Affair was set to unveil an exclusive story about a legendary former Australian cricketer who fathered a love child.
My instructions were to break the story before it aired on TV.
I knew I needed to speak to Warney – if anyone knew it was him – so I texted him saying I needed to see him privately when he had a break from commentating duties.
An hour later, while the rest of the reporters covering this series were poring over the infamous Lord’s spread, I was in the stairwell with Warney.
“What’s up buddy, what do you want,” Warney asked.
I didn’t say many words.
“Warney, there’s a story about to go home about a legendary Aussie cricketer who had a love child…”
The champion spinner’s face turned ashen in a second, he cradled his head in his hands “It must be me, I can’t believe it, my life is going so well, what am I going to do?” (this was the year Warne started dating Liz Hurley).
After calming him down and saying I had no reason to believe the story involved him, Warne agreed on a plan of attack.
“I’ll call Gynge (David Gyngell, then boss of Channel Nine who was also a great friend).”
I only heard Warne’s end of that phone conversation.
It started with a few small talks about poker and other topics before Warney pressed Gyngell on the A Current Affair story.
The color returned to Warney’s face.
“It’s Deano, I’m in the clear!” Warney said with a big smile.
There are millions of Warney trivia but this is my favorite because it gave me private insight into the hidden world of Warne.
When he walked onto a cricket ground or later in life into a commentary box, he was ten feet tall and bulletproof.
He was as confident as Michael Jordan, the man he idolized, was on the basketball court.
But away from bright lights, Warne could be deeply anxious at times.
For me, that made it even more fascinating and likeable.
It was a big human title – but it was also a human.
I was a ghostwriter for Warney’s column in the News Corp papers for a while, but hadn’t spoken to him in a while.
I made a flippant joke about his surgery and it deeply offended the big man.
I wish I could take it back.
I work in horse racing now, but Warney was such a legend in sport and life that I still wrote stories about him.
Last month I wrote a thread about how SK Warne owned a running horse at a meeting in Brisbane.
It was just a modest midweek affair and Sacred Oath, trained by David Vandyke, finished second on their debut.
But the website traffic to the story was huge and it showed that anything about Warney was still loved by the public, even more than 15 years after he last played in Test cricket.
Quite simply, there will never be another Shane Warne.
Originally published as News Corp lead writer Ben Dorries explains what Warnie’s orbit was like