Aussie cricketer David Warner is a polarising character.
He is the guy you’d love to have on your team and the guy you love to hate from the opposition.
Over the past 12 months the Australian public has fallen out of, and then back in, love with Warner.
Rightly or wrongly, he was the fall guy for another Ashes series loss.
Famous for pulling no punches, on and off the field, Warner would admit to going a little too hard in the motherland.
While the Australian public can be quick to condemn, it is also quick to forgive. After a gusty 49 in the first innings, Warner raised the applause of an entire nation with an assured 122.
The toll of the last few months was evident in the athletic celebration of Warner’s third career hundred. His father’s reaction was more subdued, but no less telling.
Howard Warner welled with tears and was “shaking like a leaf”, while reflecting on his son’s innings.
It had nothing to do with boredom; a Warner innings could never do that, but everything to do with the journey Warner and by default, the Warner family had been through this year.
Life as a professional sportsperson can be a rocky road, there are ups and downs, triumphs and temptations and adulations and assessment.
Athletes thrive on control and routine to navigate their way through this terrain, but for their families, who travel the same course, there is little control and therefore the ride a little rougher
The emotion shown by Howard Warner serves as a reminder of the journey families of sportspeople go down – one marked by incredible highs and devastating lows.
This reminder is particularly relevant in the football world, as almost 100 young kids and their families enter the AFL system for the first time.
Listening to some of the parents during the AFL draft coverage made it clear these kids and the families have already been on quite a journey.
The father of number one draft pick Tom Boyd said words to the effect, “We are very proud, but it’s also been a great experience to go through this journey”.
For Boyd senior to talk about the journey so soon is probably an indication of how big the draft process has become, but the AFL experience won’t always be such a joy.
There will be more ups and more downs along the way, in reality for the average player there will be more downs than ups. The families will ride every one of these.
— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) November 28, 2013
Howard Warner admitted the criticism of his son became so intense he stopped reading the papers.
AFL families go through this every year, sometimes the criticism is warranted, but for the best part they will be angered by what people will write or say about their son or brother. It will conflict with the person they know, they may even tire from correcting people.
Howard Warner acknowledged his son had made mistakes, but refused to forget the Dave Warner he knows. The one who had recently bought he and wife, Lorraine, a new house, the one who cleared their personal debts so they could quit their jobs and spend retirement watching their son play cricket.
“He’s looked after us, he’s a bloody good boy. I’m so proud of him. To be honest,” Howard said.
In the end, that’s what it’s all about for the Warners. Watching their son bat, just like they did when Dave played junior cricket in Matraville.
For the new AFL parents the draft marks this first special moment, and there is hopefully many more to follow. The first game, the first win, individual honors, and team success and maybe even a premiership.
Whatever happens, it will be a hell of a ride.