Just when Cricket Australia thought things couldn’t get any worse, Candice Warner has weighed into the Tim Paine sexting debate – and she hasn’t held back.
As one half of Australian cricket’s number one power couple, the wife of opening batsman David Warner carries a lot of sway amongst the Test team’s WAGs and, by extension, their husbands.
When Mrs Warner makes a comment about a matter of concern within the dressing room, it can be taken as read that it is a direct reflection of her husband’s opinion.
With the players keeping tight-lipped about the treatment meted out by CA to Paine – clearing him as a player over the sexting scandal and then endorsing his resignation as captain – Candice has done their talking for them.
The Australian cricket world was rocked when it was revealed former Test captain Tim Paine (pictured with wife Bonnie) had sent lewd messages to a female colleague in 2017
Candice Warner, wife of cricketer David Warner, has broken her silence on Cricket Australia’s response to Paine’s sexting scandal
Speaking on radio station 2GB, the former iron-woman said she was ‘concerned’ and ‘worried’ over the message sent by CA’s actions.
‘They’re basically saying that it’s not okay for an Australian cricket captain to send these messages, but it’s okay for an Australian player,’ she said.
‘As a wife of an Australian player, that is slightly concerning, and it does make me worry.’
She said that the players were supporting Paine ‘but it’s also about supporting his family through a really difficult situation.’
Also going through a ‘really difficult situation’ is Cricket Australia which in the space of 10 days has gone from an organisation smugly looking forward to the financial bonanza and massive TV ratings of the upcoming Ashes series, to one under siege from inside and out, facing a player revolt, divided dressing room, public criticism, negative media coverage and a scathing attack from one of its own affiliate associations.
The top level of Australian cricket has always been riddled with factions, cliques, whispers and conspiracy theories but rarely have the battle lines been drawn as clearly as they are now.
How badly has Cricket Australia handled the Tim Paine Affair, and what is the backlash? Let us count the ways:
‘They’re basically saying that it’s not okay for an Australian cricket captain to send these messages, but it’s okay for an Australian player,’ Mrs Warner told 2GB
The Dressing Room
The relationship between Australia’s top tier players and the people running the game was not good before last Friday, but it is a lot worse now. The players believe that Cricket Australia hung Tim Paine out to dry, reinforcing their belief that CA does not have their backs. It is the one thing they all agree on.
The players are split on whether Paine should be picked for the upcoming series. As one insider said, ‘There are those who think Tim shouldn’t be allowed back in the side because what he did was wrong, and those who think he should be because what CA did was wrong. Then there are those who don’t really care one way or the other because when it all comes down to it, cricket is a very individual sport. A lot of the players would be looking at this situation only in the light of how it affects their careers.
‘Tim was unusual because in the past the Australian captaincy always went to the best player. Tim isn’t even close to that, but after Sandpapergate they didn’t need the best player, they needed the best captain at the time. He did a pretty good job and the players all thought he was fine, unlike with Michael Clarke. Now that has changed. Tim won’t be captain anymore so the players will be asking themselves, will I be better off or worse off with someone else in the team?’
The Blame Game
The inevitable wave of public debate that came hot on the heels of the biggest Australian cricket scandal since … well, since the last one, followed a familiar pattern: shock, outrage, recrimination and, of course, finding someone to blame. Predictably, the majority of anger was initially aimed at Paine, a married man who not only sent lewd messages and an explicit photo to a woman while his wife was pregnant with their second child, but – worse in some people’s minds – he did it on the morning of an Ashes Test.
Paine has been supported by his wife Bonnie who says she has forgiven him over the incident
But after the initial outrage had died down and the usual ‘he’s only human’, ‘let he who is without sin …’ supportive statements from some of the country’s most human and historically not-without-sin former sports stars began appearing, the mood began to soften. Finally, the ‘I forgave him years ago and our relationship is better for it’ interview by Paine’s photogenic wife Bonnie pretty much put him in the clear.
This led to the focus of blame shifting to the other woman who, it must be said, has become an increasingly easy target, with her age (47), pending court appearance and previous sexting interaction with Paine’s brother-in-law getting plenty of media attention in recent days.
All of which has been countered by a growing groundswell of support from certain sections of the media and public who have taken offence at the as-yet unnamed woman being painted as the villain of the piece. On the contrary, they believe she is in fact the victim, having been the recipient of an unsolicited photograph of Paine’s penis. (As one team insider told me, ‘He’s on shaky ground because it’s not like she sent him a picture first’.)
Even Paine’s assertion that their interaction was consensual is questionable, her supporters say, because the original texts and photograph were never found on Paine’s phone, and the woman was not interviewed over the matter by Cricket Tasmania or CA. All we have is Paine’s word for it.
It is interesting to note that some cricket journalists knew of the matter when it was originally investigated by the two cricket bodies three years ago, but nothing was ever written because Paine was found to have no case to answer and therefore no report was made public. This raises the question: who leaked the details to the reporter who broke the recent story? The obvious suspect is the woman, but this is believed to be not the case.
Paine is seen wiping away tears as he speaks to the media last Friday after the sexting scandal came to light. He has stepped down as Test captain
The Australian cricket team were widely criticised after a ball tampering scandal in 2018, now known as ‘sandpapergate’
When Cricket Australia chairman Richard Freudenstein said that the former board was wrong in not sacking Paine as captain back in 2018, he might have thought he was surfing a wave of public support all the way to the beach. Instead, he was dumped on his head. The players have turned against him, sections of the public have turned against him and, most of all, Cricket Tasmania has turned against him. The serve that Freudenstein copped from CT boss Andrew Gaggin was so blunt it could have been written by his fellow Tasmanian Jacqui Lambie. It will take Freudenstein a long time to get all the sand out of his Speedos.
The Big Picture
So what does this all mean to the future of Tim Paine, Australian cricket and society itself?
First up Paine. Just over a week ago you would have got long odds on him walking out to face the Poms at the Gabba on December 8, but the tide is turning. Insiders believe that CA was influenced by public sentiment when they cut Paine adrift when the story hit the papers, and many believe they will now bow to public sentiment again and allow him to keep his baggy green.
Australian cricket? Well, the game is a resilient beast. It has bounced back from worse than this: Bodyline, WSC, the underarm ball, Sandpapergate … and it will survive a few saucy texts and a d**k pic. What won’t mend easily is the divide between the players and CA.
And what of legal process as we know it? Lawyer and columnist Janet Albrechtsen wrote a very thoughtful piece in The Australian on Tuesday in which she asked the question: where are we headed as a society when employers can simply throw out the results of a legally enforceable code of conduct if they fear the general public won’t like the result?
It all adds up to what I was told time and time again as I researched this piece: ‘It’s a very complex issue’.
Indeed it is, but at least there is one positive to come out of it for Australian cricket supporters as their team prepares to take on the Old Enemy for the Ashes.
With a bit of luck, the players will put aside their animosity for coach Justin Langer during the series and direct it at Cricket Australia instead.
Cricket Tasmania became aware of the texts in mid-2018, with an investigation by the organisation and Cricket Australia clearing Paine of any code of conduct breaches