Neil Robertson paid an emotional tribute to boyhood sporting idol Shane Warne after being knocked out of the BetVictor Welsh Open by Judd Trump.
By Hector Nunns
Robertson learned of the cricket legend’s tragic death just minutes before taking to the table against Trump on Friday.
Australia’s Robertson, 40, lost the match 5-3 and admitted he found it impossible to concentrate with thoughts of Warne spinning around in his head.
He said: “I heard the news just minutes before I was about to leave the hotel before the match, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I just couldn’t believe it. He was an idol of mine as a kid, all Australia is devastated and I used him as inspiration for my career when I was younger.
“Shane changed the impact that a spinner could have in a Test series and one-dayers, and just rescued us against South Africa in the 1999 World Cup and so many times he got us out of jail.
“He was one of the huge characters in the sport and got into trouble a few times, but Aussies forgive their sporting sons if they keep producing on the field.
“If you look at the 2005 Ashes series, he literally kept us in it. And he motivated so many kids to pick up a ball or a bat. Everyone in the cricket world is devastated.
“It is similar for us to when Diego Maradona died. And he was a loveable rogue, he was like Jimmy White in snooker.
“I was actually in tears in the car park, trying to settle down before I got to the venue and then when I arrived I was completely deflated. I didn’t expect it to have that impact on me.”