Key influence: Ricky Ponting and wife Rianna. Photo: Wayne Taylor
Ricky Ponting's family has spoken for the first time together about the alcohol-fuelled altercation that publicly humiliated the famed cricketer.
It was January 1999 and a then 24-year-old Ponting emerged black-eyed from the Bourbon and Beefsteak bar in Kings Cross as the sun was rising. Unable to recall the night's events due to intoxication, the damning front page of this newspaper spoke a thousand words.
Ponting's promising future was in jeopardy as he faced suspension from the Australian cricket team.
Damning: This newspaper's report of Ponting's spree.
''Telling the team manager half the story because I wasn't sure about the rest of the night and where it had gone was a pretty hard thing to do because it came across as if I was holding something back and not telling the whole truth, but to be totally honest I didn't really have a great recollection of what had taken place,'' Ponting said in the first instalment of a two-part Australian Story program to be aired on Monday on ABC.
''I had had a few drinks and I had a few more drinks, until it was getting late. I'd apparently bumped into a guy at the bar and spilt his drink on him and ended up with a black eye the next morning.''
Back in Ponting's home state of Tasmania, his family felt the full impact of the blow to his career. ''That incident in Sydney just devastated us,'' his mother, Lorraine, said. ''I just felt so sorry for him.''
Ponting apologised to the public and Cricket Australia and walked away from the nightclub incident searching for a way to redeem himself and get back on track doing the thing he loved most: playing cricket to the best of his ability.
Those teammates who witnessed his transformation held the utmost respect for how he took responsibility in an effort to change his relationship with drinking.
''He seemed to withdraw himself, from going out with the guys, having nights out, late nights,'' fellow Test cricketer Adam Gilchrist said.
''That was probably the initial impact and change on his lifestyle and it obviously honed his focus on his cricket, and we started to see that.''
Ricky's father, Graeme, and his brother Drew believe meeting the love of his life, Rianna, also played a big part in Ricky's development from a larrikin into a sporting role model.