‘I don’t think that went down real well’: How Mike Whitney’s mouth harmed his test career
Larrikin, raconteur, entertainer, Test fast bowler, Who Dares Wins.
That’s cricket and cultural icon Mike Whitney for you, all served up with a cheeky smile and a curly black mop top.
Mike Whitney played in 12 Tests and 38 ODIs for Australia from 1981 to 1993 and quickly emerged as a favourite among Australian and New South Wales cricket fans for his wit as much as his ability with the pill.
His career saw him playing for his state and his country, as well as long stints in English county sides. Post cricket, his star power broadened as after he was beamed into our homes and onto our TV sets as a travel host on Sydney Weekender, a referee on cult TV series Gladiator, and as co-host of the hit show Who Dares Wins.
Before the lofty heights of television stardom and before a career in cricket, Whitney’s early life was spent in the Eastern Sydney suburb of Matraville playing Rugby League alongside the Ella brothers.
This marked the beginning of a passion for sport, a love of rugby league, and the ignition of an eternal flame for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Click PLAY to hear Mike Whitney’s account of the Ella brothers’ boyhood talents:
Whitney’s Test cricket debut came about after an injury crisis struck the Australian side who were touring England at the time. It was 1981, and Whitney was darting back and forth across England playing for county side Gloucester one day, Northern League’s Fleetwood the next.
While playing for Fleetwood, and during a particularly harmful onslaught from Malcolm Marshall, Whitney received a surprise phone call and it changed his fortunes forever.
Click PLAY to hear Mike Whitney’s tale of how he was first selected to play for Australia:
After debuting for Australia in 1981, follow-up test selection was elusive. In fact, Whitney didn’t play for Australia again until 1987.
It wasn’t due to a lack of form either – Whitney remained lethal with the pill at Shield level – but can perhaps be traced back to a loose-lipped incident with then Australian vice-captain Rodney Hogg.
Click PLAY to hear what Mike Whitney said to Rodney Hogg:
After hanging up the pads in 1993, Whitney commenced a long and successful career in TV, kicking things off as the host of the long-running travel show Sydney Weekender which he continues to host after getting the gig in 1994.
It was his appearances on cult TV shows Gladiators as a referee, and then as the host of the thrill-seeking adventure game-show Who Dares Wins which earned Mike Whitney a new generation of fans.
Who Dares Wins is regarded as one of the first reality TV shows in Australia, a fact which Whitney is playfully apologetic for. To this day people of a certain age will stop Mike Whitney in the street with a simple question: do you dare me?
Click PLAY to hear more about Gladiators and Who Dares Wins:
Off the field and away from the screen, Whitney’s life became busier than it had ever been before when his wife gave birth to triplets.
As a cricketer, and a fast bowler no less, a hat-trick is as good as it gets – especially when a mate gifts you a gag which lasts the test of time.
Click PLAY to hear Mike Whitney’s triplets tale: