An array of celebrities, including singer Elton John, golfing legend Greg Norman and champion surfer Kelly Slater, paid tribute to their friend, former Australian cricketer Shane Warne, at a star-studded state memorial service.
More than 50,000 mourners chanted their hero’s nickname “Warnie” at the outset of the service at the Melbourne Cricket Ground as they used to do when he took to the pitch for a match. It was his hometown pitch where he cemented his sporting legend in 2006 by becoming the first bowler in the world to take 700 Test wickets.
Warne’s death at a Thai resort of a suspected heart attack on March 4 at the age of 52 made headlines around the world. The pain was felt far beyond the cricket world. Tributes came from the fields of music, acting, business, golf, politics, surfing, comedy, poker and others. Elton John dedicated a rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” to Warne’s children Brooke, Summer and Jackson who were among the crowd that included Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
John and fellow British musicians Ed Sheeran, Robbie Williams and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin appeared on a large screen via video. So too did Australian singers (and sisters) Kylie and Dannii Minogue.
Australian-born former champion golfer Greg Norman recalled Warne’s passion, energy and enthusiasm for life. A picture of Sachin Tendulkar and Warne was beamed on the screens during the service. A statue of Warne outside the cricket ground became a focus of public grief.