Former Australian paceman Merv Hughes has paid tribute to his great mate Shane Warne, saying he “feels sorry for the people around Australia that never met him”.
Hughes was one of a number of famous names on hand at Warne’s state funeral at the MCG, and described his former teammate as a “dead set bogan” when asked for one word to sum him up.
Warne’s selfless nature has become renowned over the years, particularly after his sudden death in Thailand, and Hughes recalled a story where he’d convinced the spin king to be the top prize in an auction at his daughter’s kindergarten.
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“We were having a fundraiser for the kindergarten and my wife, Sue, asked if I could ask Shane for a game of golf, to auction off a game of golf,” Hughes recalled.
“You don’t like asking Shane to do things like that because you know he’s going to say yes.
“So I put it to Warnie and Warnie said, ‘Yeah’ and I said, ‘What about a drive in the Ferrari? What about we auction that off as well so you can have two prizes?’. We had the auction night and it went really well and raised a lot of money.”
The only problem was, with Warne becoming an international superstar with both his commitments to the Australian cricket team as well as county cricket commitments in England, the winners of the auction had to wait years for their prize.
Hughes had begun to give up hope on the winners ever receiving his prize until his phone rang a few years later.
“I started to doubt it myself,” he admitted.
“I get a phone call out of the blue, (and Warne said) ‘Merv, this golf day, this drive in the Ferrari, ring them, tomorrow is the day’.
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“So I rang the bloke up and he said, ‘Yeah mate, I’m free, not a problem’. Rang the bloke about the ride on the Ferrari, and he said, ‘Tomorrow about six o’clock’. He said, ‘I’ve got a function in town’, and I said, ‘What about if Warnie picks you up and drives you into town?’, and he said, ‘No, no, I’ve got other people’, and I said, ‘Well I’ll pick them up and take them into town’.
“If you know anything about Melbourne, coming down Mount Alexander Road, you get to the Tullamarine Freeway as it goes off. We’re going into town which is about a 15-20 minute drive, last time we saw Warnie, he was fishtailing off around on the Tullamarine Freeway with his bloke in the Ferrari.
“He is going around the Ring Road, over the West Gate Bridge, into town, we’re meeting up at the Grand Hyatt at the top of Collins Street, so I reckon he will be about 45-50 minutes and we’ve got 20 minutes to go.
“We get into the Hyatt and Warnie’s car is there. We figured surely not! There’s got to be two Ferraris.
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“Walk upstairs and Shane’s there with the bloke that bought the auction item and having a beer, and I said, ‘First drink?’, and he said, ‘No, no second’. I was thinking you’ve done well, and bloke looks at me and said, ‘Mate, I’ve never done 180km/h on the Ring Road before’.
“They had went off to their function and I sat there with Shane and had a beer and he said, ‘Merv, glad we got it out of the road’, and I said, ‘Why is that?’, and he said, ‘I’ve been wanting to sell that car for almost two years now. I knew I owed you this, so I couldn’t sell it and now I can get rid of it’. That’s the sort of bloke he was.”
When Hughes was asked what his final message to Warne would be, his message was simple.
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“Thank you for being a great mate,” he said.
“Basically, one of the most loyal people you know. The people that don’t know him think he is the way he is because of what he did in Test cricket, but it’s the reverse. He did what he did because of the way he is.
“As good as he was on the cricket field he was five times better off it. If he said he was going to do something, he always delivered.”