Is Shane Wane the last of the Australian larrikins?
Could Shane Warne be the last of those to be lightly elevated to legendary status despite a litany of well-known transgressions?
He and Hawke got away with sexual affairs that would likely be decried as morally wrong in today’s era of the #MeToo movement, all-encompassing social media and young women who have the courage to speak out against disrespect. men.
Neither Hawke nor Warne have been charged with any form of physical abuse, but both have confessed to humiliating their wives and crying over having their families take a back seat to their careers.
It doesn’t seem entirely fanciful that their secure place in history is at least partly due to the fact that they lived at the peak of their accomplishments and indiscretions before the invention of Twitter.
Indeed, in the days following Warne’s death, a corner of social media was colonized by a number of critics who denounced the outpouring of grief for someone who was simply playing ‘sports ball’ – a pejorative term applied by those who are unimpressed with sportsmen.
However, neither Hawke nor Warne ever made a big secret of their flaws, and they hid their behavior quite often.
We’ve all learned a lot from it, anyway. And on the whole, then and now, we have forgiven.
A 1991 Tandberg cartoon shows Hawke saying “I was a drunk, I was a womanizer, I was a liar”. The crowd acclaims him and carries him off, hoisted to shoulder height.
Shortly before Warne’s death, a documentary simply titled Shane tells him of drinking, remorsefully, alone in his hotel room and lying on the floor, crying over his own stupidity after his wife Simone left England and the wedding. She had dreamed of a new life with her children close to her husband, but instead she had been confronted with reports from British newspapers about her infidelity.
The documentary is part mea culpa, part story with a happy ending, illustrating the ongoing love between Warne and his three children, and part ode to his genius as a spin caster. The viewer knows that Warne, at 52, has come to recognize the damage caused by his youthful failure to understand the consequences.
Both Hawke and Warne were allowed to live on in the public mind because they were far more complex characters than the simple ‘larrikin’ tag can encompass, with gifts that elevated them above the rest of the world. ‘between us.
Hawke’s ability to connect with Australians of all types, his understanding of the intricacies of negotiation and his instinct for making big decisions when they mattered set him apart from most public figures of his time.
After the Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989, he wept openly and said that the 42,000 Chinese students in Australia could stay for their own safety.
When a shocked adviser said, “Prime Minister, you can’t do this,” Hawke displayed the utter self-confidence that often drives true larrikin.
“I already did,” he reportedly said dryly.
Warne, having never captained his country’s team – largely due to his antics off the pitch – showed what could have been when, on retirement in 2008, he became captain-coach of a team called the Rajasthan Royals in the mighty Indian Premier League cashing.
The team was considered the weakest in the league. He duly lost the first game.
But Warne, through the force of his personality and tactical skills, persuaded the players that they could win – and they did, winning 11 of the next 13 games and eventually the cup.
The Rajasthan Royals have never repeated the success of the Warne season.
In retrospect, Warne could be seen as a kind of inspirational Ted Lasso figure, evoking a miracle, which alone could have compensated for some of his failures.
In recent days, gone at 52, his generosity and love for his children have dominated the coverage of his life, the larrikin aside.
And with NSW and Queensland facing yet another disaster – flooding – it is recalled that in 2020 he auctioned off to benefit bushfire victims his most prized possession, the baggy green cap that distinguished him as as Australian Test Player.
Because it was Warne’s baggy green, it cost just over a million dollars.
There is no entirely satisfactory definition of the Australian larrikin, of course, let alone certainty as to who will have the word stamped on them in a way that will vault them to enduring legendary status.
They come in all forms, and they are not all men.
Dawn Fraser, one of the greatest swimming competitors of all time, became a hardened larrikin when the Amateur Swimming Union of Australia banned her for 10 years. It was alleged that she slashed a flag during late night hijinks at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
It was an excuse: the swimming union just couldn’t stand his individualism, which made fans love him more.
Larrikinism does not always last. Fraser later diminished his reputation by attacking the bratty behavior of tennis players Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic saying “they should go back to where their parents came from”. She later apologized for the racist comment.
Graham Kennedy was certainly a larrikin at Melbourne TV, particularly when he let loose with his infamous ‘crow call’ in 1975 which landed him in hot water with the broadcast control committee.
The following week, Kennedy – who, like Warne, was known as “the king” – invited the public to imitate the call “faaark”. This barred him from performing live. By including his audience in his villainy, it guaranteed him a lasting membership in the larrikin brigade.
Legendary Australian satirist Barry Humphries invented a form of proxy larrikinism by creating larrikin characters, in particular Barry McKenzie, nephew of Edna Everage, ignorant, gluttonous Foster and chundering.
Critics hated it, but Bazza McKenzie proved so popular with ordinary Australians that Gough Whitlam launched into larkinism when appearing in the 1974 film. Barry Mckenzie Holds Upwhere the Prime Minister invested Edna with her femininity.
Whitlam, however, always seemed a bit too cerebral and superior to be deemed a larrikin.
And there, perhaps, is a clue. The Larrikins cannot be deemed too condescending or too noble, as amazing as their gifts are.
Humphries himself discovered just how fleeting adulation can be when in 2019 the Melbourne Comedy Festival decided to drop his name from its premier comedy award, formerly known as the Barry Award. His derogatory comments about transgender people (“a fad”) were deemed transphobic.
And there is another clue. If future larrikins are to be hoisted to the pedestal of legend and remain there, they will have to pay more attention to contemporary mores.
Things have changed a lot since the heyday of Bob Hawke and Shane Warne. And they are sure to keep moving.
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