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Former Test captain Tim Paine has opened up about his “selfish” obsession with cricket, his failure as a husband and father, which almost led to a marriage breakdown with wife Bonnie, and the professional help he received to realign his life.
“That’s as hard as it gets,” Paine told veteran News Corp cricket correspondent Peter Lalor, who has written the Tasmanian’s revealing autobiography The Price Paid: A Story of Life, Cricket and Lessons Learned, to be released next week.
Tim Paine resigned as captain of the Australian Test team in November.Credit:Nine News
“You think the whole cricket thing is your life until it is not and then you’re like, ‘Shit, what else have I got?’ and you haven’t got that either (cricket or marriage). That was a kick in the guts.
“That period of my life, our life, still upsets me. I don’t like talking about it, I don’t like going back over it. It was bloody hard, but it was harder to see Bonnie trying to deal with it … it wasn’t because of her actions, she was within her rights to do that at that stage and I would probably have done the same.
“I was broken at the time. One day I was in the garage and I saw the Cricket Australia bag on the shelf and the Tasmanian one next to it and became overcome by the urge to throw them out. Everything went – but fortunately my club kit was in another room and it survived.”
A child protege who made his Test debut with Steve Smith in 2010, Paine’s career was severely curtailed when he suffered a shattered finger during an exhibition game some months later that required multiple operations.
Captain Tim Paine leads the celebrations after Australia retained the Ashes in England in 2019.Credit:Getty Images
Talked out of retiring to take up a sales role with cricket equipment manufacture Kookaburra in 2017, Paine received a surprise call-up to the Test team. But almost at the moment he regained the dream, Paine set a ticking time bomb that would shatter his career and threatened to do the same to his family.
In his Brisbane hotel room ahead of the first Test against England in November, Paine had a sexting exchange with Cricket Tasmania employee Renee Ferguson, which would haunt him during what should have been a fairytale comeback.
The following year Paine’s unexpected rise reached its zenith when he was appointed Test captain after skipper Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner were banned following the sandpapergate scandal in South Africa.
However, 2018 was also the year Ferguson made complaints about the behaviour of Paine and other Cricket Tasmania employees after leaving the organisation.
Ferguson was subsequently charged and pleaded not guilty to allegations that she fraudulently took $5600 from Cricket Australia in 2017. The case has been adjourned a number of times, most recently last month.
Ms Ferguson is suing her former employer over allegations she was sexually harassed by four former colleagues. The allegations have been denied.
Paine, 37, insists the exchange was consensual and was subsequently cleared by Cricket Australia and Cricket Tasmania investigations.
But he was forced to resign as captain by Cricket Australia when the scandal became public in November last year and subsequently stood down from the Australian and Tasmanian teams.
Tim Paine walks out for the coin toss against Pakistan in 2018.Credit:Getty
“I never thought I wasn’t putting my wife and family first, but when I took a step back it is ridiculous that I couldn’t see how selfish I was, how much in my own bubble I was,” Paine told Lalor.
“I remember Bonnie saying something to me years ago and I was thinking, ‘What is she talking about? I’m a good husband, I do everything’, but I see now I was hopeless. I wasn’t a horrible person, but everything I did was centred around me and what I needed to do. And now I probably am – no, I am – completely the opposite.
“I don’t know if I could play international cricket the way I am now, maybe I would be better, but I have always been the sort of person who thought they needed to be fully immersed, that’s the way I’ve done it. I didn’t know any other way.”
“Initially, I was just concerned with losing cricket, but that soon became the least of my concerns. It was shocking. I’d be sitting at home thinking of the memories we’d had in it, about the kids and everything Bonnie and I had created, and to think I’d messed that up was horrible.
Tim Paine batting for Tasmania against Queensland earlier this month.Credit:Getty Images
“It was sickening and then it got to the point where I thought why bother even trying.”
The couple received professional help, which saved their marriage, and Paine has recently made a return to playing for Tasmania.
“I changed my thinking,” he says. “I shut up and just worked on becoming the person I wanted to be and should have been and slowly things turned around. Our relationship is much better now.”
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