THE goodwill that’s flowed Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft’s way following their emotional press conferences hasn’t headed towards David Warner.
Not yet, at least, and it doesn’t look like getting there any time soon.
Warner broke down in tears when fronting the media on Saturday morning to talk about his role in Australian cricket’s ball tampering scandal — but that hasn’t been enough for Australia to sympathise with the 31-year-old.
Warner was widely slammed on social media and by TV presenters for failing to answer questions on whether anyone else was involved in the plot to cheat in Cape Town and whether it was the first time he had ever illegally changed the condition of the ball.
“I’m here to take full responsibility for the part I played in this,” he said repeatedly when pressed on those matters.
Warner didn’t throw his teammates under the bus as some were expecting, and he was crucified for it.
The reality is, Smith and Bancroft took the same approach in their press conferences.
“Look, I’m not here to comment about other players involved,” Bancroft said when asked about Warner’s role.
Smith answered a question about his relationship with Warner by saying: “No, I don’t blame anyone.”
Those two have been praised for taking ownership of their mistakes, while Warner is copping even more heat for repeatedly saying he was “taking full responsibility” for his actions.
Part of that is because, while Smith and Bancroft spoke publicly immediately after touching down in Australia, Warner waited until Saturday to do so. He said his priority was to put his young daughters to bed on Thursday night, then he took a day to consult loved ones about what his next move would be.
The darkest chapter in Australian cricket history had just unfolded and the tide was turning towards Smith and Bancroft. Empathy replaced outraged, but the country couldn’t start feeling sorry for everyone involved in the crime.
Someone needed to be blamed and with Smith and Bancroft’s road to redemption starting to overshadow their role in the controversy, that blame has been heaped on Warner.
“Smith and Bancroft had been so well received, we still needed a villain,” brand and advertising expert Dee Madigan said on Weekend Sunrise. “Because he (Warner) was third cab off the rank it fell to him, I think a little bit unfairly.”
Warner was between a rock and a hard place. Former Aussie quick Jeff Thomson said it would be “un-Australian” for the opener to dob in his teammates, and now he’s been hammered for doing the exact opposite.
“He was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t,” Madigan said.
“Don’t forget, he didn’t answer any questions but Steve Smith hasn’t answered those questions either and neither has Bancroft so I do feel like this has all been put on Warner a little bit unfairly.
“He would have absolutely been crucified had he dobbed in other players.”
Cricket Australia fingered Warner as the chief architect behind the ball tampering scandal, saying he had the idea to cheat and convinced Bancroft to use sandpaper to rough up the ball, even showing his younger teammate how to do so.
But it’s more than just his crimes on the cricket field that Warner is being torched for, to the point where not everyone was buying his tears in the way they bought Smith’s.
“I didn’t feel we got the outpouring of emotion that perhaps we got from Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft I think because Warner had time to think about it,” former Australian netball captain Liz Ellis said on Sports Sunday.
“So when he read his statement it sounded very, very stilted.”
Warner’s reputation as Australia’s attack dog and the unfavourable way he’s viewed by opposition players because of his on-field conduct has come back to haunt him and means he won’t be winning any PR wars.
Australia needs a scapegoat and right now that man is Warner — excuses are unlikely be tolerated.
He was already in the firing line for his conduct against South Africa. He mocked Aiden Markram for running out AB de Villiers and had to be restrained by teammates in a stairwell in Durban when Quinton de Kock made “vile” comments about his wife Candice.
Warner and his family also had to deal with fans wearing masks of Sonny Bill Williams to games, shaming Candice for her toilet tryst with the All Blacks star in a Sydney hotel more than a decade ago.
Candice has begged Australia to consider the strain these episodes have placed on her husband, but that may not be enough to save him from the public lashing he’s continuing to cop.
“I”m sure there were things he wanted to say but he just couldn’t get it out,” Candice told The Daily Telegraph. “He is hurting. He is seriously, seriously struggling and he’s not in a great headspace.
“If people could understand … if they could just sympathise just slightly with the month that he’s had.
“Seeing them wearing the masks. To have people staring and pointing and laughing at me, to have the signs, to have, you know, the songs made up about me — I would have to sit there and cop that.
“Dave would come home from the game and see me in tears in the bedroom, and the girls just looking at their mum.
“He had to just cope with it.”
At present, that context looks to have fallen on deaf ears. Based on the reaction since his return to Australia, Warner’s going to have to cope with a lot more.