HomeUncategorizedIn memory of the larrikins, Warnie and Bacchus

In memory of the larrikins, Warnie and Bacchus

A boisterous, often badly behaved young man.
“James was something of a larrikin”
A person with apparent disregard for convention; a maverick; “the larrikin trade union leader”

Sitting in India, it was a Friday book-ended by sadness at the passing of one legend at one end and the rude snatching away of another at the other. If at 7.30 am I was gently upset by the news about Rodney Marsh, by 7.30 pm I was stunned by the news of Shane Warne’s sudden demise. You could have knocked me over with a feather, I was so shocked!

As I the read the horrific words on my phone, chills went up and down my spine. Then I thought, oh, this must be a hoax. Who are these people who do these things? It’s not funny. Not even close.

Then the notifications began popping up. From Twitter, Instagram, and a plethora of news sites. All blowing up my phone with the same words. Oh dear god! It’s not a sick joke, not a hoax. He’s actually gone. My vision blurred as I read the brief press release – he was dead. Of a suspected heart attack at the age of 52.

My heart constricted, my hands went cold. I got goosebumps and felt sick to the stomach… Dead? What do you mean, dead? How? Why? What on earth was going on!!

For most of his life, Warne was larger than the sport he played

And just like that, Australia, – nay, the world – had lost two sporting greats in 24 hours spanning two days. Two legends that any Aussie would proudly tell you were the greatest larrikins they ever had. Two legends who lived colourful lives on a scale larger than most, whose days were like rainbow sprinkles on many occasions, and dotted with grey on others.

Both had not-so-memorable starts to their careers, with Marsh being panned as ‘Iron Gloves’ for his sloppy work behind the stumps, and Warne not living up to the hype of being Australia’s newest spin sensation. It took some time, but they came into their own (and how!), as the world now knows.

In their day, Marsh and Warne were the quintessential bad boys of the game. But they were lovable rascals. Bacchus and Hollywood. Stories of legendary beer drinking competitions swirled around ‘Bacchus’ Marsh. One unforgettable one has been recorded for posterity by Kerry O’Keeffe in his book According to Skull. In it, O’Keeffe spills the beans about a friendly wager between Marsh and Doug Walters – who would drink the most beers on their flight from Sydney to London in 1977 for an Ashes tour? Of course, Bacchus won. Hands down, guzzling 45 cans, and taken off the plane in a wheelchair.

Also read: Great Southern Stand at MCG to be named after Warne

The redoubtable David Boon later broke that ‘record’ by downing 52 cans, also on a flight from Syndey to London, in 1989. Though he never ever admitted to it, this dubious feat was confirmed by teammates Geoff Lawson and Dean Jones.

Now, if you’re wondering about the nickname, there are two versions of how Marsh got it. The first, and more politically correct one is that he was so ‘christened’ by his teammates on a train ride through Victoria when they made a pit-stop in the countryside at a place called Bacchus Marsh. The other version, and I suspect the more likely one, is that his love for a good lager or two, or three, and more, came from the Roman god of wine.

Stories of legendary beer drinking competitions swirled around ‘Bacchus’ Marsh

Controversy dogged Warne, too, on and off the field, sometimes overshadowing his greatness on it. The heady days when he basked in the glory of the ‘ball of the century’ were almost eclipsed by the scandals. From admitting to receiving money (along with Mark Waugh) from a bookie in exchange for pitch details, being thrown out of the 2003 World Cup in South Africa after testing positive for a banned diuretic (which he swore up and down was given to him by his mum), to ‘sexting’ a married woman and being dumped by fiancée Liz Hurley for cheating on her, ‘Hollywood’, as he was called, was rarely off the front pages of tabloids around the world. Oh, and let’s not forget how he hurt Indian sentiment by refusing to eat spicy food while on his tours to India, and opting for cans of Heinz’s beans instead!

For most of his life, Warne was larger than the sport he played. Unapologetically so. He smoked like a chimney, drank like a fish, played poker like a card sharp, womanised like a Casanova. He lived life to the fullest, and died in his prime. And that’s why his passing will always be a more bitter pill to swallow than Marsh’s death.
Still, now that they are both gone, we will remember them for way they played and lived; hard. Their greatness lies beyond these stories, in all the brilliance they displayed on the field. I can almost hear Brian Johnston’s sonorous tone – that’s it, folks! Don Bradman’s gone. Stumped by Rod Marsh. Done in by Shane Warne.

Travel well, larrikins. Vaya con Dios.

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