What does your Instagram feed look like? Mine’s mostly hyper-specific starter pack memes and that account dedicated to Fran Fine’s outfits from The Nanny. A basic mix of woman-in-her-twenties content—or it would be, if not for all the candid portraits of retired Australian leg spin bowler Shane Warne and his burly blonde teenage children.
I follow Shane Warne on Instagram. I do. I bring this up not as an apology, but rather as encouragement for others to follow my lead. I don’t desire to deconstruct: a close reading of Shane Warne’s personal photographs would, I’m sure, prove fascinating to sports and gender studies scholars alike, but this is neither the time or the place. I’m just here to observe, and to pay tribute. There is a certain brand of social media presence that gets very little airtime here on vice.com, characterised by a charmingly earnest dadness. I hope this article can exist as a form of belated apology for the oversight.
To begin, a timeline. Shane Warne’s first Instagram post appeared on February 2, 2013. Cast your mind back and recall that this was the platform’s too-often-forgotten vintage filter era, rendering Warne’s black and white shot of daughter Brooke (who bares an endearing, uncanny resemblance to her father) totally forgivable. The caption establishes what will become the account's house style: unpretentious and straightforward blokey candour. What literary critics refer to as New Sincerity. Warne's sunburned face is for the most part a total delight to encounter on the feed—those cheeky boyish flirtations‚ the ones that lost him the vice captaincy of Australia back in 2000, are kept to a bare minimum.
Scroll upwards and you can deduce much about the man behind the Samsung (I’m going to assume a Samsung). Shane loves his children, selfies, golf, hot chips, Crown casino complexes, and this great country. He strikes an appropriate balance between nostalgia and humour when it comes to TBT-ing his renegade days as Australia’s blonde-tipped, sausage roll-eating all rounder. Shane Warne believes, correctly, that A Few Good Men contains one of the “best movie scenes ever”. Shane Warne enjoys Tasty Toobs, the tasty, saucy, bite-sized snack. On February 2, 2017, Shane Warne posted no less than six videos of the same Bruce Springsteen concert. Shane Warne has a penchant for random pictures of African lions presumably sourced from Google Image Search. Celebrities Shane Warne has posed with on Instagram: David Hasselhoff, Harry Styles, Steven Tyler, Ed Sheeran, David Beckham, Chris Martin. Plus numerous mysterious blondes.
On that note, in an era where the actions of men in the public eye are finally being given the scrutiny they deserve, it seems worth mentioning that Shane Warne is neither “woke” nor “bae” in the technical sense (the latter depending on taste—I’m more a Glen McGrath girl). But you get the feeling he’d be open to hearing your perspective on whatever issue. He doesn’t hide from his own controversies: recent posts address a scathing attack on his parenting style by Woman’s Day (Warne, perhaps accurately, labels the publication “a disgrace”). He also appears on good terms with his ex-wife, as well as former flame Elizabeth Hurley.
There’s a slickness to it all. Indeed, unlike some minor Australian celebrity Dads on Instagram (I think of it as the Karl Stefanovic genre), Shane Warne has developed a deceptively complex and sophisticated brand. The key here is that the account appears at first to be a totally naive venture—a lovably clueless attempt to get down with the kids via hashtag. Warne’s Instagram bio, after all, simply reads: “Ex sportsman, playing a bit of poker around the globe & enjoying cricket commentary. In reality just a single dad doing my best & aiming to please! [thumbs up emoji]”
What you discover upon further inspection is that Warne has curated an immaculate personal brand with careful, dedicated attention to detail. His (verified) handle is not @shanewarne, but rather @shanewarne23. Those aren’t random numbers he was forced to add because some teen meme lord from Perth stole his name—Warne played as number 23 in the Australian national team, and retained it even when he retired to the greener pastures of county cricket. Oh, and the nightclub he owns at Crown Casino is also called Club 23. He shares the number with Michael Jordan.
Warne’s life and sporting career, in fact, is easily defined by numbers: 1001 wickets taken, 1761 maiden overs bowled, 102 of the best batsmen in the world dismissed for a duck. In 2005 he took 96 wickets, the most by any bowler ever in a single calendar year. But I’d argue still that Shane’s most important digits are 3.3 million (his Twitter following) and 724, 000 (Instagram). Sporting prowess has a certain currency in this country, sure, but social media prowess opens up unimaginable doors on an international scale. Those unfamiliar with his Instagram presence might marvel at the fact Warnie once sustained an enduring love affair with a famously beautiful British actress, whereas those who have followed him for years might marvel at the fact he isn’t dating, say, Nicole Kidman. That he isn’t pushing for an Australian Republic and positioning himself as future president. He’s that good: an understated but savvy social media maverick.
I initially followed Shane Warne because I enjoy watching cricket and am nostalgic for the baggy greened heroes of my childhood, but I have kept following him mainly because I admire his personal branding hustle. Does this man ever sleep? Unlikely. I like to imagine him late at night, sitting upright in a four poster bed, stubbed out ciggie on the bedside table, wearing one of those white hotel-style towel robes. Strategically liking the selfies of lithe tanned models from obscure European countries. Retaining his relevance from the comfort of a Melbourne mansion filled with flat screen TVs and golfing equipment.
Spin king on the pitch, spin king on the gram. Chuck the man, the legend, a follow. He doesn't even do sponcon! Except for some helpful tips about hair loss.
Follow Kat on Twitter.