Shane Warne tributes flow at MCG


Small groups gathered around Warne’s statue to take photos, while others arrived early to get photos with Glenn McGrath – who, in his playing days, formed a legendary bowling partnership with Warne – as he headed into the stadium.

The day started in warm sunshine, and by 10am, the two litre-bottles of sunscreen offered outside the stadium are all but empty, as sun-smart attendees helped themselves as they walked through to the turnstiles.

“Where’s the zinc?” one punter asked, eager to join in on the Warnie tribute.

Queues from the coffee carts dwindled about noon, as fans switched to beers and the temperature rose, along with the tempo of the match.

One lively group of cousins and mates – “we’re mostly family, but sorta, kinda not family,” was how one member described the relationship – confessed they’d started on mixed whisky drinks early; from 8.30am.

Michael Bourke’s buck’s party celebrations hit full swing when South African captain Dean Elgar was run out. Credit:Chris Hopkins

“We’re here for Scotty Boland,” one said, excited to see the damage the Victorian bowler could inflict on the South African batsmen. And Boland did not disappoint, collecting the first of four wickets taken by Australia in the first session.

Shortly before lunch, Michael Bourke and his 20 mates roared with cheers when South African captain Dean Elgar was the victim of Marnus Labuschagne’s sharp fielding, and run out. The group, dressed in flamingo-patterned T-shirts with Bourke’s face on them and yellow terry-towelling hats, were celebrating Bourke’s bucks party.

Observing the action in the stands near the lunch break, British travellers Lauren Terry, Hannah Porter and Ami Deacon, commented that the drinking culture seemed tame compared to what they’re used to.

“It’s a really good atmosphere, but hoping it gets a bit more rowdy later on,” Terry said. “Aussies are so nice, it’s a fair bit more relaxed [than at home].”

Hannah Porter, Ami Deacon and Lauren Terry at the MCG Boxing Day Test match.

Hannah Porter, Ami Deacon and Lauren Terry at the MCG Boxing Day Test match. Credit:Chris Hopkins

The three Yorkshire farmers have been in Melbourne for a month, and decided to spend their last day in the city at the MCG with a few beers in the sun – even if it created the prospect of a hungover flight to Sydney.

While not accustomed to the warmer weather, they saw some benefits to the 32-degree heat: “You can drink more because it’s hot,” Porter said, as Terry nodded knowingly beside her.

Unlike those first-timers, Bill Karametos, Philip McShane and Michael Vlahos are no strangers to being at the MCG on Boxing Day.

They’ve had countless memorable moments across 40 years of attending the game with teammates from their North Balwyn cricket club, Koonung Heights, but agree one particular occasion stands out above all others.

 Bill Karametos, Philip McShane and Michael Vlahos have 40 years of memories from attending the cricket on Boxing Day.

Bill Karametos, Philip McShane and Michael Vlahos have 40 years of memories from attending the cricket on Boxing Day.Credit:Chris Hopkins

Although, they cannot recall what year it was, their memories of winning a rich reward with a group quaddie bet while at the MCG remain crystal clear. Such was the size of their win, one member of the party used his share to buy an engagement ring and propose to his now-wife.

The men said this year’s match was particularly special because the grandstand formerly known as Great Southern Stand was making its Test debut as the Shane Warne Stand.

Cricket fans (from left) Mark Honnery, Luke Ryan, Brad Thomas and Merv Thomas arrive at the MCG.

Cricket fans (from left) Mark Honnery, Luke Ryan, Brad Thomas and Merv Thomas arrive at the MCG.Credit:Carla Jaeger

Among those donning the white hats in tribute to Warne were Mark Honnery, Luke Ryan, and father-son Merv and Brad Thomas. Flying down from Newcastle, they were there to tick an item off their bucket list, decades after Merv coached the trio cricket as children.

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“We thought we should go before Merv gets any older,” Honnery joked.

Instead of broad-brimmed hats, mother and daughter Eleanor and Charlie Noonan waited in the long line for coffee early in the morning, wearing the yellow and gold bucket hats handed out at the entry.

They came down from Brisbane in a group of 20, and were prepared for their first taste of cricket at the MCG.

“Boxing Day tests are pretty iconic. To be here for the first day, it’s a bucket list item,” Eleanor said.

Charlie, not one for cricket, was there for a couple of glasses of champagne, and the atmosphere.

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