Paul Barry: The Shane Warne Story

By Richard Boock, Reviewed by Richard Boock

If anyone really needed any confirmation that Shane Warne is a goose - a wonderful leg-spinner but a goose - they should find all the necessary ammunition in this unauthorised biography, Spun Out.

Written by established author Paul Barry (The Rise and Fall of Alan Bond), the 27-chapter book is the classic warts-and-all story of the world's most successful cricketer, with the focus more on the warts than anything else.

It was only a matter of time. Warne's autobiography was published five years ago and must rank as one of the biggest novels to appear on the non-fiction stands.

The irony was that, by sanitising his own version of events to such a degree, Warne left so much of his story untold that it was inevitable that someone would come along and fill in the gaps.

This isn't supposed to be the purist's account of Warne's cricketing exploits. It's more about all the questions the great leg-spinner has refused to answer - on his womanising and betrayal of wife Simone, the bookmaker saga, the drugs scandal, the sledging and the general buffoonery.

It must have been a tricky assignment even for someone of Barry's experience. Warne refused to co-operate from the start, and instructed all his teammates and team officials to stay silent with him.

The other complication for the author must have been that, although Spun Out is supposed to be a tell-all, hardly anything in it will come as a surprise for the moderately-informed reader.

Yes, there's new information and interviews that clarify what a complete bonehead Warne is, there's a more revealing study of his family background, and some candid observations from childhood and school friends.

Barry describes a cricketer who seems to have been raised as a spoiled mummy's boy - a walking paradox of a man, supremely confident yet profoundly insecure and a philanderer of international repute.

For all that, there's nothing in the book particularly revealing in light of what we already knew about him. It's more the sheer weight of numbers that starts to catch the eye; the scale of his stupidity.

Run a glance over these names and try to figure out what they've all got in common: Lisa Ramsden, Donna Wright, Helen Cohen Alon, Angela Gallagher, Kerrie Collymore, Rebecca Weeden, Gemma Hayley, Laura Sayers, Julia Reynolds, plus a topless MTV presenter named Emma, and an equally topless TV gardener called Coralie.

Probably the most fascinating part of the story is how Warne's now estranged wife Simone lasted so long, standing by her man during humiliation after humiliation until she was possibly the only person on the planet who didn't know what she had to do.

Simone finally took the plunge last year after a Sunday Mirror expose highlighted Warne's frolic with 25 year-old Sayers, a blow that Barry says prompted the cricketer to devise one of the craziest plans known to man. Two days after the Sunday Mirror story was published and after the showdown with Simone in which he begged her to stay, Warne reportedly suggested to 20-year-old archaeology student Rebecca Weeden that she should seduce Simone into having a threesome with him to save his marriage.

"He'd scripted the whole lot, what he wanted me to say and do," Weeden told the Mirror. "He said he would take his wife for a drink and I was to come over pretending to be a star-struck fan. "Then I was to say 'Oh, is this your wife?' and start complimenting her and saying how beautiful and attractive she was. He was going to keep buying us all drinks and we would take it from there."

Voted Inside Sport's Least Admired Sportsperson in 2000 (comfortably seeing off bids from Mike Tyson and Hansie Cronje), Warne was more a rugby-racing and beer fan than a cultural connoisseur, something that Barry said became more problematic on overseas tours.

On Australia's 1998 tour of India, for example, Warne apparently told an interviewer that he admired the attitude of former test batsman Dougie Walters, who refused to get out of the bus at the Great Wall of China, on the basis that, if you'd seen one wall you'd seen them all.

A pizza and pie man, he can't stand curry, has no time for high-class cuisine, and on the 1998 Indian excursion is reported to have existed for the first part of the tour on cereal, cheese and Vegemite on naan bread.

In the end, Heinz Australia sent over a pallet of baked beans to keep him happy.

No one could deny Warne remains the most successful living cricketer in the world but Barry's work is a worthy read, not least because it tries to answer all the questions Warne has avoided for most of his career.

From the start, readers may get the distinct impression that Warne was lucky to escape more serious consequences when he was a teenage hoon, getting around in his lowered six-cylinder Cortina with fat, chrome wheels and loud extractors.

Barry says that apart from the well-documented issues involving bookmakers and taking banned drugs, Warne sailed perilously close to the wind after exposing himself to three Asian women in Darwin during his Academy years.

According to one of those involved, Warne came down to the swimming pool at the University College where the team was staying, wearing only a dressing gown, and went up to three Asian girls who were sunbathing, wrote Barry.

He opened his robe in front of them, to give them a good look, and then said something obscene.

Enough said, really.

* Publisher: Bantam

* RRP: $49.99

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