I can clearly remember the game in which Shane Warne made his solitary appearance in St Kilda’s reserves side- but I can’t remember Warnie playing in it!
To explain, it was the match in which Trevor Barker was returning to the field after a heel injury which had sidelined him for the first 14 weeks of the 1988 season. Along with many other Saints fans, we made a point of getting to the Moorabbin ground early to watch Barks, and wouldn’t have paid any attention to a chunky blond-haired kid from the under-19s wearing No. 60.
Indeed, if we had cause to check who was No. 60, the Footy Record had him listed as “Trevor” Warne. So the man who would become the biggest sporting name of his time was listed under the wrong name in his highest point in the winter game. (The following week he was listed as Shane, but by then he was back in the Under-19s where he would remain for the rest of the season, before being told in early 1989 his services were no longer required).
He had been a late inclusion and just as he had been ready to phone coach Gary Colling and tell him he had been ill with the flu all week, he was instead called by Colling who told him that he would be part of the reserves side. It was an opportunity he could not pass by.
In Shane’s book, he recalled that he was matched against the young Carlton defender Milham Hanna who constantly raced away from him. After two or three times it became too much for coach Colling and Warne was dragged. Years later, Trevor Barker recalled that in the muddy conditions he was exhausted himself by three-quarter time of his comeback game and suggested to Colling that Warne stay on, so he could have a spell.
Shane played 15 games for the Under-19s that year and was their best goalkicker with 25 goals. Greg Planner still has the stats sheet for Warnie’s best game when he bagged seven goals, three behinds against Hawthorn, the team he had barracked for as a kid. In the style of a true forward, he had 22 kicks and not one handball!
As the years, passed Shane would become great mates with Trevor Barker, who effectively became his mentor in many ways. When Shane had knocked back an infamous bribe offer in Pakistan, the first person he contacted after landing back home at Tullamarine was Barker, phoning to say he urgently needed to catch up to discuss something really important.
When the whole matter was revealed later on, this writer chided Barker for not passing on the biggest cricket story in 20 years, but Barker was never going to reveal it.
Warne was St Kilda to the core and when he was ostracised by the cricket world during his year-long ban over using his mother’s weight loss pills, the club, through coach Grant Thomas, often invited him to training sessions and other involvement during a tough personal time.
Through it all, Warnie was always smiling, always friendly with Saints people across the board from presidents through to every day fans.
His fame worldwide may have come in another sport, but at Linton Street he will always be remembered as one of our own.
Vale, Shane Warne.