MELBOURNE: Australian cricket superstar Shane Warne was farewelled at a private memorial service on Sunday by family and friends, as former fiance Elizabeth Hurley said her “heart aches” that she was not able to attend.
The legendary leg spinner’s body was found at a luxury resort in Thailand on March 4, with his death aged just 52 from a suspected heart attack provoking shock and grief around the world from prime ministers, rock stars and fellow players.
An autopsy revealed Warne died of natural causes, with a private jet last week flying him home to his native Melbourne.
He was remembered Sunday in an invitation-only service at St Kilda Football Club, an Australian Rules team he supported all his life.
Among the mourners were Warne’s three children Brooke, Jackson, and Summer along with fellow cricketers, local media personalities and his close-knit poker group.
“He brought together so many things,” his close friend and television presenter Eddie McGuire, who reportedly delivered the eulogy, told the Herald Sun newspaper outside the venue.
“The reason why he was so loved is because he was fallible, he was Superman.
“The magic part about Shane Warne was that he sprinkled his gold dust everywhere he went. He didn’t become a hermit, he brought his friends into everything in life,” McGuire added.
Australia teammates at the service included Mark Taylor, Ian Healy, Mark Waugh, Michael Clarke and Glenn McGrath while ex-England captain Michael Vaughan was also seen arriving.
But Warne’s former partner, the British actress Hurley, said she was unable to make the celebration of a larger-than-life character who transcended his sport.
“My heart aches that I can’t be in Australia tomorrow for Shane’s funeral,” Hurley wrote on Instagram late Saturday. “I was filming last night and, with the time jump, physically can’t get there.”
She accompanied her message with pictures of the couple celebrating their engagement in Sri Lanka.
They became a couple after Warne split with the mother of his children, Simone Callahan, but they parted ways in late 2013.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in that he’s gone,” Hurley added.
“It seems too cruel that all the people who loved him will never have another Lion hug, but our memories will live forever. RIP Lionheart, with love, your Luna.”
The public will be able to pay tribute to Warne at a state memorial at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on March 30 where thousands of people are expected to attend.
Coldplay’s Chris Martin will reportedly deliver a musical tribute remotely with Elton John and Ed Sheeran to send messages.
The Sydney Daily Telegraph said Greta Bradman, granddaughter of legendary Australian batsman Donald Bradman, would sing the national anthem.
A stand at the famous cricket ground is to be named after Warne, who is entrenched in Australia’s sporting pantheon – in the eyes of many second only to Bradman.
Credited with reviving the art of leg-spin, Warne took 708 Test wickets as part of a dominant Australian Test team in the 1990s and 2000s before becoming a respected commentator.