FORMER Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke has opened up about the “heavy” scrutiny he received after his very public breakup with model, Lara Worthington (formerly Bingle).
The pair ended their two-year engagement in 2010, after Clarke made a snap decision to fly home from a cricket tour in New Zealand for “personal reasons”.
Clarke and a then-22-year-old Worthington finally made the decision to call it quits over the phone, which led to a complete media storm outside the couple’s Bondi apartment.
“That was heavy. That was cameras 24/7,” he admitted to 60 Minutes journalist Allison Langdon.
“That wasn’t my dream, I didn’t know that came with playing cricket for Australia.”
Clarke, who will appear alongside his wife Kyly for a sit-down interview on tonight’s episode of 60 Minutes on Channel 9, admitted his relationship with Worthington reached breaking point upon his return from New Zealand, where he no longer felt he could live in their house together.
“I got to a stage when I came back that I actually couldn’t stay in my own house,” he said.
“I didn’t feel comfortable. So I ended up hiding in the boot of my mate’s car, he picked me up in the garage, um and snuck out without the media ... seeing me.”
Worthington, who claimed to have initiated the breakup during an interview three years after the split, said it was the best decision she’d ever made.
“The best thing I ever did was leave (Clarke),’’ she told News Corp in 2013.
“You know what I mean? So I got to experience all these opportunities. Otherwise, I kid you not, I would have three children by now.’’
After the breakup, the 29-year-old blonde — who is now married to actor Sam Worthington and pregnant with their second child, felt she was living in Clarke’s shadow during their three-year romance, describing his job as “very robotic’’.
“I felt like I was living in his dream,’’ she said.
“And there are girls that are happy to do that and hats off to them.”
Following the couple’s engagement, rumours circulated that Worthington’s $200,000 engagement ring had been flushed down the toilet, and that Clarke called a Sydney plumber to retrieve the expensive item.
Fairfax quoted an employee from Twin Pipes plumbers saying they had a call about 2.30am to the apartment block where the high-profile couple lived reporting that “someone had placed something, worth a lot of money, down the toilet.”
After looking for the item for several hours, the plumbers claimed to have brought in a camera to inspect the pipe lines, but still failed to locate the missing item.
The story, which was squashed by Worthington’s then agent Max Markson, was echoed by Clarke when questioned by Langdon.
“I’d like to say I’m a very silly man. But I’m not that silly,” he admitted.
“I’m not throwing any diamond ring down a toilet. Complete made-up 100 percent bulls**t!
“I have apologised enough,” he said, when questioned if he should apologise for his ‘younger self’.
“I haven’t done anything wrong. I just did it my way.”
Clarke first met his now wife Kyly Clarke when the pair were schoolmates at Westfields Sports High School in Sydney’s western suburbs. After getting married in 2012, Mr and Mrs Clarke welcomed their daughter Kelsey Lee three years later.
In the broad ranging interview, Clarke broke down while talking about the death of his “little brother” Phillip Hughes.
Hughes died on November 27, 2014, three days after he was struck in the neck by the ball during a match at the Sydney Cricket Ground between South Australia and New South Wales.
“I guess I probably tried to tell myself that there’s a chance he’d be okay,” he said.
“But I think I knew there wasn’t.”
Clarke was a pallbearer at the 25-year-old’s funeral, which was held in Macksville, NSW.
In his speech at the service Clarke reflected on his close friendship with Hughes.
“I don’t know about you but I keep looking for him. I know it’s crazy, but I expect any minute to take a call from him or to see his face pop around the corner to call me into the next room for a story and a laugh,” he said.
“Rest in peace my little brother. I’ll see you out in the middle.”
During the 60 Minutes interview, Clarke also revealed for the first time how he came to blows with batsman Simon Katich in a locker-room altercation in which Katich grabbed him by the shirt.
“I think a lot of us were getting wound up,” he said of the incident, which started from an argument about when they should sing the traditional team song. “So I think he had every reason to be p***** off. But I don’t think my language was appropriate to Kato.”
The full interview with Michael and Kyly Clarke will air on 60 Minutes on Sunday night at 8.30pm AEDT on Channel 9.
At the beginning of the week the drama was still in the gossip pages. The dignity of Bingle, one half of Australia's ersatz Posh'n'Becks, had been assaulted by the publication of a nude photograph.
But when news broke that Bingle's then fiance, Clarke, was leaving the Australian cricket team to support her as she dealt with the media fallout, the scandal suddenly took on national significance.
For there are few things more un-Australian than baling on your mates for a chick. When your mates are the Australian cricket team, and your manly duty is to captain (or vice-captain) them, you may as well be spitting on the flag or setting fire to a koala while playing Waltzing Matilda backwards.
And even if the public will forgive you, sporting pundits will not. Commentators usually ignore the women behind the sportsmen, but this week they donned disapproving expressions to deliver homilies about the ideal cricketing wife: unflashy, of stable mind and modest demeanour.
But the tradition of the sporting wife has changed, and Bingle is its exemplar. Whereas once they stayed either at home, or in the shadows of the spectators' box, now they are more likely to be spruiking their own fashion line.
It was not so long ago that Bingle was being held up proudly as Australia's most prominent WAG, the British term coined to describe the wives and girlfriends of the English football team.
We loved their Charlie's Angels style and wanted our own set of WAG dolls to play with. We got Bingle, and now we are sticking pins into her.
The relationship between WAG and sporting authorities is mutually beneficial - they bring glamour and humour to sport. They attract media attention and therefore advertising dollars.
Cricket Australia was happy to trade on Bingle's popularity when it used her in an advertisement for the Ashes tour, standing (scantily clad) in front of no less a doyen than Richie Benaud.
It is a truism that Australians ask a lot of their sporting heroes.
If recent reports are to be believed, Clarke has come home to end his engagement, or have it ended for him.
Either way, few people would expect him to conduct such a personal transaction via text message or Skype.
Clarke has behaved with both sense and sensibility - qualities we always say are lacking in the macho culture of Australian sport.
But whether or not his relationship with Bingle has soured, Bingle's relationship with the public certainly has.
This week she has been accused of threatening her fiance's career, she has been called a ''mess'' and unstable. She has been mocked as too short to model, and worst of all, declared ''unmarketable''.
The things that are said on internet comment boards - the meeting place for modern lynch mobs - or implied in news reports, are more sinister. Reporters note she is ''linked'' to men with unsavoury reputations. Readers are encouraged to join the dots for themselves.
Before Brendan Fevola's nasty paparazzi effort of photographing her in the shower, Bingle allowed professional topless photos to be taken of her. But the argument that because she has consented once, she loses all right to refuse in the future, well, nobody still thinks like that, do they?
In Bingle's paid interview for Woman's Day, she says of the nude photo that ''women should not have to accept that sort of behaviour … it is demeaning and disrespectful of us''.
A small report in a tabloid newspaper this week said Bingle was donating a portion of the interview fee to an anti-bullying charity. The story smacked of deft publicist placement, and swirling behind the entire debacle has been the spectre of Bingle's agent, Max Markson, a man so commercially minded he makes Donald Trump seem like a socialist.
Various reports have circulated about how much money he is asking for his client's story, and what she is prepared to do for it.
Bingle has moved from WAG to celebrity, following the time-honoured route of sex scandal via product placement and fashion modelling. Privacy is rarely part of that deal.
In the introduction to his interview, Phillip Koch writes: ''This is Lara Bingle stripped bare - but on this occasion there is a big difference. She is the one in control.''
This is very hard to believe.