Australian cricket legend Glenn McGrath has opened up on how he rediscovered love after the tragic death of his first wife Jane.
Australian cricket legend Glenn McGrath has opened up on how he rediscovered love after the tragic death of his first wife Jane, whose legacy is still felt within the cricket community.
Jane, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1997, founded the McGrath Foundation in 2005 with Glenn and close friends Tracy Bevan to help raise funds for breast care nurses in rural and regional Australia.
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She succumbed to the illness in 2008 aged 42, leaving behind two kids — son James and daughter Holly.
Every summer on day three of the New Year’s Test, the Sydney Cricket Ground turns pink in celebration of Jane’s life and the McGrath Foundation.
And it wasn’t long after the inaugural Jane McGrath Pink Day in 2009 that Glenn met his second wife Sara Leonardi in Cape Town, South Africa.
“When I met Glenn, he very quickly told me that he was a widower and that he had two kids,” Sara told ABC’s Australian Story.
“I remember asking him, ‘What do you do?’ And he’s like, ‘I play cricket.’ And I was like, ‘No, I mean how do you pay your mortgage?’ And he said, ‘No, I play cricket’.
“When you make the decision to be with someone, you take the whole package. I had no illusions that things were going to be peachy peachy, but I knew that Glenn and I loved each other and we were going to make it work.”
Within a year of meeting, Sara up-ended her life and moved to Australia to live with Glenn and his young family.
“I just enjoyed being with her,” Glenn explained. “She’s fun, she’s exciting. She’s got all these ideas and never wants to sit still.
“She was thrown in the deep end. For her to come out here and come into a family where they lost their mother previously, there was a foundation because of Jane and her experience, took a lot of courage and character.”
Despite the challenges of moving in with a family that had recently lost its mother, Sara quickly adjusted to the stepmother role.
“I can’t even imagine what it would be like to come into a relationship knowing that you’re taking on not just the man but also two kids as well,” Holly said.
“From the first day I met her, she was always so kind and caring. She kind of knew what we needed at the time. You can tell that she’s Italian, like she runs a tight ship and that was good. We needed that.”
Because of Glenn’s popularity among the Australian community, his love life inevitably caught the attention of media outlets following Jane’s death.
Despite keeping a low profile early in the relationship, a photographer snapped Glenn and Sara sitting together at a Double Bay cafe in early 2010.
The couple were uncertain how the public would perceive their relationship, but media coverage was overwhelmingly positive.
“It was on the front page of the newspaper and I was like, thank God I got my hair done,” Sara said.
Glenn continued: “We found out the guy sold it for $95,000. If I knew that I’d have taken the photo myself.
“We had six to seven cars following us everywhere we went. Poor old Sara was taking James to play cricket, she didn’t even know where she was going and there’s cars and motorbikes following. It was just ridiculous.”
Sara fell pregnant with Glenn’s third child Madison via IVF, but she become increasingly unwell after developing pre-eclampsia.
Her condition deteriorated considerably eight weeks out from the due date, with doctors recommending an emergency caesarean.
“She could hardly breathe,” Glenn said.
“Her lungs were filling with fluid and the doctor came to us and he said, ‘We need to deliver your baby now because your wife will not be alive in six hours’. And I thought, ‘S**t, you know, here we go again’.”
Sara recalled: “I said to him, ‘If I’m gone, you’re absolutely undateable. Like, who’s going to date you if I’m gone?’”
Madison weighed just 1.8kg at birth, but was otherwise a healthy baby girl.
James and Holly have become increasingly involved with the McGrath Foundation as they’ve grown up, which Sara encouraged.
“Did I understand Jane’s legacy? Certainly not from afar, but after being here and seeing the impact that she’d had on people with sharing her story, I understand why Australia had so much respect and love for her,” Sara explained.
“Nobody lived it like Jane and Glenn did. It’s their life. It’s the legacy of Jane, it will be the legacy of Glenn and it will be the legacy of James, of Holly and of Madison as well. So it is a privilege to be involved with the foundation.”