Wayward but devoted, new doco shows two sides of Shane Warne

Wayward but devoted, new doco shows two sides of Shane Warne

SHANE
95 minutes, rated M, selected cinemas then Amazon Prime from January 25
★★★

In his exceptional 2012 study On Warne, writer Gideon Haigh states that Shane Warne’s life has been “laid out at book length” at least 15 times – and that’s setting aside the highly successful Shane Warne: The Musical. By now the total must be even higher.

“He snores for Australia”: Shane Warne and his children in the new documentary, Shane.

So does the documentary Shane add much new to the picture? The answer in some ways is no, although it makes a difference to have Warnie sitting there in front of you on his couch as he goes through it all again: the childhood in the Melbourne suburbs, the dashed hopes of a career in AFL, the “ball of the century” bowled to Mike Gatting in the 1993 Ashes, the overnight fame, the golden years, the scandals (to a point), the comebacks and the rest, or as much as can be squeezed into 90-odd minutes.

There are three credited directors behind Shane – David Alrich, Jon Carey and Jackie Munro – but no big filmmaking ambitions on display, nor anything that seems especially geared to the big screen, where the film is getting a run before its streaming release.

Shane Warne’s early sporting years.

Naturally there are clips of Warne’s great moments on the pitch. But mainly it’s talking heads, with the man himself backed by a chorus of family members, former teammates and assorted cricketing greats (also, for some reason, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay’s Chris Martin, who may or may not be among his close personal friends).

Two sides of Warne emerge especially strongly. First, the ruthless competitor, ever alert to his opponents’ weak spots, and a master not just of leg spin bowling but of the not unrelated art of sledging, or what Haigh (not interviewed here, alas) calls “kidology”.

Young Shane.

Warne himself calls it “sportsmanship,” which is the opposite of what some would mean by that term – and allows that on occasion he may have taken it too far. But mostly he’s unrepentant if not outright boastful about his knack for mind games: his reminiscent smirk, which hovers between cheeky and infuriating, almost lets you believe his claim that playing against him was a difficult kind of fun.

Also emphasised is Warne the wayward but nonetheless devoted dad. If there’s a scene here that might be hard for Warne himself to watch, it’s where his now adult daughter Brooke recalls (and visibly relives) the very public revelation of her father’s infidelities. But when all three of his kids get together to mock his foibles (“He snores for Australia”) there’s no doubt whatever of the love coming through.

There remains something oddly pure about Warne, who is almost though not quite the Last Larrikin – and an emblem of national identity in some respects perfect for the Howard years, though this is not a subject dug into on this occasion.

Warne himself is not the kind to lose sleep over what he might symbolise for anybody. But nor does he appear to have wearied of talking about himself, however often he may have told most of these stories before.

While looking back over his ups and downs may trigger the occasional rueful moment, these seem far outweighed by a satisfaction with his accomplishments too frank to be called vanity, especially as it’s well and truly been earned.

This settled confidence gives him a particular kind of screen presence, quite unlike what we might expect from a politician, say, or an actor in character or otherwise. If he’s not exactly introspective, nor does he seem in doubt of his feelings on any subject – which is part of what makes him, on camera, an effective storyteller. Another part is unsurprising: he knows how to use his hands.

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