Shane Warne’s state memorial service will be a celebration of his life, with no limits on crowd numbers, when he is farewelled at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) this month.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews confirmed yesterday (9) that the event will be held on the evening of Wednesday, 30 March.
“There’s nowhere in the world more appropriate to farewell Warnie than the ‘G’,” he said.
Warne died of a heart attack in Thailand last Friday (4). He was 52.
The cricketer’s body is expected to be transported on a charter flight arranged by family and friends to Melbourne today (10), after being driven under police escort from southern Thailand to Bangkok. His private funeral is expected to be held next week.
Planning meetings for the public state memorial service continued yesterday, with all conscious of the need to help the Warne family, reported Jon Pierik, Marta Juanola, Peter Ryan, and Karl Quinn of The Age in Australia yesterday.
“Our job is to make it thoughtful and tasteful and a really great night, a celebration of his life,” said a source with knowledge of the planning process who asked to remain anonymous.
This will include highlights of Warne’s record-breaking career on the scoreboard, while other more touching, personal tributes are expected.
Warne’s celebrity singer friends Chris Martin and Ed Sheeran are keen to attend and may perform. Mick Jagger has also been touted as a possible attendee.
Andrews said details for the memorial service were still being finalised, including the need to follow any Covid-19 health and safety protocols. He said there would be no limits on crowd numbers for the service, with the MCG’s stands able to hold more than 100,000 people.
It was unclear whether extra capacity would be allowed on the field.
Details of how to apply for tickets will be available soon, Andrews said, adding that the service will also be live-streamed.
“It’ll be a very big event,” he said. “It will be a celebration of his life as it should be.”
The Premier said he hoped Warne’s family had been helped by the public reaction to the player’s death.
“It is a very difficult time for them,” he said.
“I hope that it would be made just that little bit easier by the fact that there has been such an outpouring of grief and support. And the farewell memorial will be a very, very important part of that.”
Warne’s Manager James Erskine said so many people were keen to give their time and be involved in the celebration, a point reinforced by others close to the Warne family.
“Everyone wants to be involved – who is around, how do we do it? We are putting on a major production in two weeks and doing it with a grieving family,” one source said. “We are trying to get the family through it as much as possible.”
It is unknown whether Warne’s former fiancée, actress Liz Hurley will make the trip to Australia.
Hurley reached out to Warne’s daughter Summer on Instagram, commenting on one of her posts: “I love you Summer. Your daddy worshipped you.”
The Victorian Government will have the Great Southern Stand at the MCG formally renamed as quickly as possible, which could be as early as his farewell celebration, while plans by Cricket Victoria to rename the Kevin Murray Stand at the Junction Oval in honour of Australia’s greatest Test wicket-taker are before Parks Victoria.
Televising the memorial service will be a collective effort, with each of the broadcasters likely to have the opportunity to station a single camera crew inside the venue, at designated spots. The footage shot by each network will be pooled and live-mixed into a single stream for output to each network. The government will also produce its own stream of the event.
At this stage, no network has committed to broadcast the service, either in part or in full.
If the service happens at twilight, the decision about whether to carry the feed or not could become a difficult one, as it would mean disrupting normal prime-time programming.
While the Bert Newton memorial service, which took place on a Friday morning last November, was carried by all five free-to-air networks and Sky, the Michael Gudinski memorial service last March – which took the form of a concert – was not, largely because it was a three-hour event in the evening.
Friends of the cricket superstar have made their way to the Thai capital to continue arrangements for the repatriation, as tributes for the cricket star continue to flow.
Warne was farewelled from Koh Samui, the holiday island in southern Thailand he was visiting at the time of his death, with a traditional Buddhist ceremony arranged by Australian expats.
The blessing, conducted by Wat Arom Sawang Temple Head Monk Khun Prasit, was attended by Australian embassy staff and other Australians.
Thai police have confirmed Warne’s autopsy showed the cricketer died of natural causes, suffering a heart attack in a room at the island’s Samujana Villas resort while watching TV.
St. Kilda Australian Football League (AFL) Captain Jack Steele has spoken of the ongoing sadness at the club after the shock passing of the star cricketer.
Warne, who played one game in the reserves for the Saints, desperately wanted to follow his idol Trevor Barker in representing the red, white, and black.
The former Australian cricket star had written on how he wasn’t quite good enough to make it.
“I lacked pace and was dropped from the list at the start of the 1989 season. It was a major blow, a real kick in the guts, the end of my boyhood dream,” he wrote in Shane Warne, My Own Story.
Steele said news of Warne’s death in Thailand at the weekend had hit the club hard.
“The whole club has been truly affected by it. He was a big Sainter himself.
“It’s a sad time for us and the Warne family and we pay our condolences. It’s sad to see him go.”
Sentimental punters yesterday pounced at the chance to back in a horse part-owned by Warne, but a fairytale finish did not eventuate in Ipswich when the jockey fell during the 1500-metre race.
Warne had a share in the David Vandyke-trained, three-year-old colt Sacred Oath but dreams of a winning finish just days after the champion cricketers’ passing were dashed when jockey Ryan Maloney and the horse appeared to be shunted and forced into the railing, after which Maloney hit the track and tumbled. Maloney, who wore a black armband in Warne’s honour, escaped serious injury.
“Warnie was one of my heroes growing up. I just loved watching Warnie, he was just so flamboyant,” Maloney said before the race.
Punters had backed Sacred Oath in from AUS $ 1.75 to 1.30 favouritism with bookies. This was the horse’s second race, having finished second in a 1,350 m maiden in Doomben last month.
Warne was one of several prominent names to own the horse, with others including actor Shane Jacobson, media identity Hamish McLachlan, and AFL players Luke Ryan, Jake Lloyd, Blake Acres, Trent McKenzie, Joel Hamling, Brennan Cox, Darcy Tucker, Brandon Matera, and Michael Walters.
Shane Warne’s ex-wife Simone Callahan shared a heartfelt tribute to him on social media on Tuesday (8), saying he was taken “too soon” from their children’s lives.
In a post to Instagram on Tuesday, Callahan – who was married to the cricketer for a decade from 1995 – said: “Shane’s greatest love, our children Brooke, Jackson, and Summer.”
The post was accompanied by a video and photo montage of the cricketer with his children, including one of his daughters dancing as he played with others in the background with a soccer ball.
“Shane was taken too soon from their young lives,” Callahan wrote.
“Eternal love remains and will never leave.