Shane Warne service a ‘funeral for Victoria’: McGuire

Cricket great Shane Warne was farewelled during a two-hour state memorial service at the MCG.

Cricket great Shane Warne was farewelled during a two-hour state memorial service at the MCG. Photo: AAP

Media personality Eddie McGuire has defended the reported $1.6 million price tag for Shane Warne’s state funeral, saying the service did more than honour the cricket legend.

The funeral drew thousands to the Melbourne Cricket Ground in March 2022, four weeks after Warne died from a heart attack in Thailand.

On Wednesday, The Age newspaper reported that the two-hour service cost taxpayers more than $1.6 million – sparking a call from a former premier to cut back on the number of state services.

McGuire, who was master of ceremonies at the March service, confirmed his production company JAM TV was allocated $1 million to broadcast  it across the country and internationally.

But he defended the price tag, saying it not only honoured Warne but allowed Victorians to mourn.

“In a lot of ways, we saw this as being Victoria’s funeral,” an emotional McGuire told 3AW on Wednesday.

“I had to bury my mother with 10 people in the room at the funeral and I got great succour out of the fact that we all came together for a collective funeral in the name of our great mate Shane Warne.”

More than 55,000 people attended the free service, which featured remote performances from Elton John, Coldplay’s Chris Martin and Robbie Williams. Former cricketers including Australian captain Allan Border and West Indian great Brian Lara also spoke at the service.

McGuire said the service had to be held at the MCG because the ground’s Great Southern Stand was renamed in Warne’s honour on the night.

He also said the service – which was produced  “on the smell of an oily rag” – promoted Melbourne to the world after years of lockdown.

“It didn’t need to have these things done, no. But we did because it went around the world,” he said.

“I had executive producers from Hollywood ringing me the next day who I’d never heard of, who just said ‘we saw this, this was incredible’.

“We put our heart and soul into this because we loved Shane and we love this city.”

The MCG was packed for Shane Warne's state funeral

Mr McGuire denied his production company made any profit from the service, and said it ran at a loss.

Elsewhere, former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett said it was time to rein in state services.

“Go and speak to some of those people who are still waiting for their houses to be built after the floods or the fires many years ago, and when you spend $1.6 million on a funeral for a person – forget who it is – who has already been highly successful and been rewarded by their country with honours etc, you’ve got to ask yourself ‘Is that an appropriate expenditure of public money?’,” he told Melbourne’s 3AW.

State funeral venues are selected following consultation with a person’s family, with the site often having a special connection to the deceased.

Victorian Major Events Minister Steve Dimopoulos said it was important those offered a state funeral were honoured with dignity, regardless of the cost.

“I would rather be accused of being over the top than not celebrating and giving Victorians the chance to celebrate the life of iconic people in this state,” he said on Wednesday.

-with AAP

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