‘Women shouldn’t be judged on their sexual past’
IF THE last year has taught Candice Warner anything, it's that if you're going through hell - hold on! - because chances are it's going to get better.
For Candice and husband David Warner, who in April copped a one-year ban for his role in Cricket Australia's ball-tampering scandal, that silver lining has finally arrived - and it's about family, loyalty and love.
"Just because something happens in someone's life, you don't just wipe your hands of them. You support them, you do what you can to get them through," Candice, 33, tells BW Magazine.
"We just are super supportive of one another, we're a team - and you don't let your team members down. If they fall, you pick them up."
Indeed, when Cameron Bancroft was caught by TV cameras trying to rough up one side of the ball to make it swing in flight, during the third Test match against South Africa in Cape Town in March, then vice-captain Warner was the first to come out to publicly apologise on Twitter; a few days later he gave an emotional press conference in which a shattered Candice could be heard audibly sobbing as he spoke.
We did hit rock bottom, but the great thing about rock bottom is you can reset your whole life
But the anguish of the period Candice describes as "the worst in my life" extended beyond David's professional disgrace.
For the mother of Ivy Mae, 3, and Indi Rae, 2, it was personal.
During the second Test between Australia and South Africa, South African fans were broadcast across the globe wearing masks of rugby player Sonny Bill Williams.
It was a cheap and humiliating shot at the couple referring to Candice's now infamous drunken mishap with Williams, at the Coogee Bay Hotel 11 years ago.
And sadly, it worked.
Candice believes the emotional toll it took contributed to her miscarriage of the couple's third child.
"It was really disappointing because we had been trying for almost a year, since July last year we were trying, and to finally fall pregnant - we were just so happy. But then when we lost the baby it was really upsetting and disappointing but it just wasn't that little baby's time with us," she says.
"It just wasn't time for that little one to be with us and, like everything, David and I are so positive that it just wasn't meant to be, and we're just going to keep trying."
It's this ability to pick themselves up and dust themselves off that has been key to both Candice and David's sporting success and the longevity of their relationship.
"We grew up in Maroubra and in Maroubra it's tough," Candice says.
"You just move on. You're working class, you deal with it, and you move on. Life's too short, life's too precious to dwell on stuff and beat yourself up about it.
"Life is too precious and I see that every day with my daughters. They wake up and they just make life so worthwhile."
Indeed, Candice credits motherhood as meaning more than any success she achieved as one of the country's best ironwomen.
"I want three or four kids," Candice says.
"David would be pretty happy with three, I think, but I love kids. I think my biggest achievement and the thing that I'm most proud of is becoming a mother. I love being a mum, I really do.
"I feel like I've achieved so much as an athlete, but as a mum I feel like that's what I was meant to do … and I'm just really lucky to have my two daughters," she adds, her eyes welling up with tears.
If there's a positive to come out of the public disgrace that befell the Warners, it's the stability it's brought their young family.
With David's cricketing career requiring constant travel, the family became used to living on the road. Now for the first time they've got the chance to stop, reflect and lay their roots.
"Ivy at six weeks went to Dubai for David's tour and Indi went to India (as a newborn), so they've never really had a big block at home like this and they've really blossomed. To see the girls make some really great friends at school and improve their swimming has been beautiful," she says.
"This Christmas will be the first Christmas as a family we've ever spent at home because David's always been away. So we'll be able to plan a Christmas at home for the first time with the girls - and Santa's going to be coming to our house instead of a hotel.
"It's little things like that we're really going to cherish."
It's also given them the opportunity to spend time with their extended family, who all live within walking distance of each other in Maroubra.
Recent months have seen the Warners move in with Candice's parents, Kerry, 68, and Michael, 74, who still works for the local council, while they renovate their home.
David's family live just up the road.
The couple may have copped criticism for their "flashy" lifestyles, most notably when David splashed out on a $450,000 Lamborghini, but Candice says the insinuation they live like rock stars is laughable.
"It's so far from the truth! I mean, David grew up in Matraville in housing commission. I grew up in Maroubra. We still live here. Yes, David drives a nice car but why can't he? He's worked really hard for that and it's something that he always dreamt of, so that's a little reward for himself," she says.
"But before he got that he made sure everyone was set up financially, he bought his parents a home, he bought us a home, he has invested well. He didn't just go out on the spur of the moment and buy a brand new Lamborghini."
Although far from struggling, Candice admits David's ban has been a financial blow to the family and has helped them re-evaluate what's important.
"We did hit rock bottom, but the great thing about rock bottom is you can reset your whole life," Candice says.
"We've been able to assess everything and it's been great. We're in a really good position at the moment. We're really happy, David's playing a bit of cricket, which is making him happy, and as a family we've never been tighter and we've never been closer."
Given the space to reflect on the public humiliation she suffered, Candice is able to look at what happened in South Africa as part of a bigger social picture.
In the era of #Metoo and 50 years after the sexual revolution, it seems particularly shocking that a woman is still being shamed for her sexual past.
"I just feel like the people that still do that sort of thing are just so far behind in the way that they think. It's like they just haven't caught up; but it is really sad that in a time with the #Metoo movement that they still are so narrow-minded," she says.
"I can't even comprehend the way they were thinking when they're making the masks and doing signs or making up songs … did they not think about their mother? Their wife? Their girlfriend? Their daughter? Clearly they don't.
"It's not acceptable. The thing about sport is that no matter your religion, no matter your sex, no matter your beliefs, you should be able to go to a sporting match and sit there and support whatever team you go for.
"It shouldn't matter about your race, religion, your anything, you should be safe from all that. So that's the one really disappointing thing - for me to go to a sporting match and to be shamed and to feel the way I did was just so wrong."
She is also painfully aware she is not the only woman shamed for having a sexual past and warns there could be dire consequences.
"If someone else was in that position, who maybe didn't have such a solid network around them or that wasn't so strong, I just fear for someone who may be in that position - what they could maybe do to themselves," Candice says.
"Because it was terrible, it was shocking, it was repulsive, it was every word you can think to describe it, and I could quite possibly see that someone could take their life over something like that."
For now, though, the dark days are behind the Warners and they're focused on the future and creating the best life they can for their girls.
"We're a very solid family and I think without that support and unity as a family we would really struggle to have got through this last few months but also everything I've been through," Candice says.
"David and I are very much in love. We love each other, we support each other. That's why even before what happened David has had so much success … because we're a team.
"And when he goes out to bat, we're in the stands supporting him, and when he comes home we're there too. We do whatever it takes to be the best team and we're really proud of that."