The king of spin: Alex Williams tells the story of an Aussie icon, Shane Warne taken too soon

''He was so true to himself''.
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Shane Warne was a cricketing legend, a feared spin bowler who changed the game forever. He was also a true Aussie icon, loved by millions, and his death in 2022 at the age of 52 left a nation in shock.

“He was so true to himself,” Alex Williams, who plays the character of Shane in two-part drama Warnie, tells TV WEEK.

“He was so true to himself.”

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“Even with all the fame and being the best in the world, he still felt like that genuine guy who might walk into your living room and have a tea and chat with you and your mum about whatever.”

Warnie, which is inspired by real events, begins Shane’s story when he’s a teenager with a mullet living in the Melbourne suburb of Black Rock and dreaming of playing football for St Kilda in the AFL. Alex says Shane is “pretty one-eyed” at that point in his life.

“He loves St Kilda,” Alex, 32, tells TV WEEK. “All he wants to do is play football. Him being rejected by the club, I think sets up the start of someone who is going to work incredibly hard to be very, very good at something.”

“I think because he’s so honest about who he is.”

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Shane takes on a string of jobs, including delivering beds, before turning his focus to cricket. Success doesn’t come immediately, but when he makes the Australian team and dismisses Mike Gatting with his very first ball against England in 1993, he’s suddenly world famous.

“I think because he’s so honest about who he is, and so real, it doesn’t bother him too much,” Alex says. “He probably enjoys that period.”

By then, Shane has already met the woman who will become his wife, Simone Callahan. From the moment she offers him a beer at a celebrity event, the pair hit it off.

“There’s an immediate sense of familiarity between them,” Marny, 29, who plays Simone, tells TV WEEK. “They recognise something in each other.”

“She’s the most incredible mum.”

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Alex says Shane is “absolutely besotted” with Simone.

“I think he’s in love with her very, very quickly,” he says. “And it remains that way for a long time.”

Simone and Shane have three children in the space of four years. It’s tough for Simone, with Shane away playing cricket so much of the time.

“She’s the most incredible mum,” Marny says. “That just shows what she’s made of, her strength and her ability to put her kids first.”

At the height of his fame, Shane makes some serious errors of judgement. There’s the time he’s photographed smoking, despite having made a lucrative deal to give up cigarettes. There’s the incident with him accepting cash from a bookmaker. Then there’s the diuretic he takes, which leads to him being barred from cricket for 12 months.

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The ban could have been the end of Shane’s career, but he’s determined to play for his country again.

“He uses that one-eyed mentality to get back on top,” Alex explains.

Over the years, there are stories involving Shane and other women. Simone can’t ignore them, especially when they tell their stories to the tabloids. It comes to a head when Simone moves with the children to England to be with Shane, just as another sex scandal breaks.

Soon, journalists and paparazzi are camped on their doorstep.

“That’s the big crescendo,” Marny says. “Filming it was intense, even just pushing my way through that crowd. Simone is a private person and that would have been really difficult.”

Playing Shane was a thrill for Alex.

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Later, there’s another serious relationship for Shane – with British model and actress Liz Hurley. It’s a dream come true for the tabloids.

“She’s one of the loves of his life and it’s a really exciting time,” Alex says. “It’s post-cricket, but there’s a lot of the media circus that comes with that, so they deal with that in their own way.”

For Alex, a lifelong cricket fan, playing Shane was a thrill.

“For me, it all came from a place of love and affection,” he says. “I just hope that people enjoy it as much as I enjoyed making it.”

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