From love triangles to toilet trysts and family feuds, the sex scandals of Australian sporting history are rarely forgotten, no matter how much those involved would like them to be.
Football, cricket, tennis – you name the sport and Aussie athletes have managed to get themselves into strife over affairs of the heart in one way or another. Even chess gets a guernsey.
That’s right, chess. It was back in 2006 when the then-19 year-old Australian champion Arianne Caoili caused the biggest stir in the staid world of chess since Bobby Fischer beat Boris Spassky.
Not your average looking chess player, the glamorous daughter of an Australian mother and Filipino father, Caoili also dabbled in modelling and wowed audiences on Dancing With The Stars.
Australian chess player Arianne Caoili was reportedly fought over by two of the sport’s grandmasters in 2006
But it was the sight of two of the game’s best players – British grandmaster Danny Gormally and Armenian Levon Aronian – coming to blows on the dancefloor of an Italian nightclub as they vied for her affections that earned headlines worldwide.
In the town of Turin for the World Chess Olympiad, the trio had been to an official party before kicking on to the nightclub where Gormally was said to have punched Aronian as he danced with the sexy Australian.
‘As far as I’m aware in this incident she was an innocent party in the sense that she was merely having a dance at the Bermuda Party,’ Ms Caoili’s long-term coach told the Sydney Morning Herald at the time.’
The Australian model and chess champion’s coach had ‘guys queuing up for her’, her long-term coach said
Gormally caught the first plane back to London and Caoili ended up marrying Aronian but there was no happy ending, with the former Oceania women’s champion being killed in a car accident in Armenia last April at the age of 33.
Mr Aronian tweeted: ‘I have no words to express the grievance over my wife Arianne’s death. She was an intelligent, hard working and joyous person that lived a beautiful life.’
Other Aussie sex scandals might lack the international flavour of the Caoili-Aronian-Gormally triangle but they certainly created a stir on home soil.
AFL legend’s wife affair with his best friend
None more so than the affair between former AFL great Garry Lyon and the wife of his best friend and Footy Show co-worker Billy Brownless in 2016.
Although both men were separated from their wives at the time – Lyon since 2014 and Brownless for 12 months, Brownless told The Footy Show audience that Lyon’s affair with his wife Nicky could have been going on for up to four years.
‘I couldn’t believe it. I found out three or four months ago,’ Brownless said of Lyon’s affair with his wife of 18 years. ‘I asked Garry and Nicky earlier on what is going on and they said they were just good friends. That’s what hurts the most.
‘By law it’s legal. Morally it’s wrong. We all know our rights and wrongs. You don’t touch a man’s wallet; you don’t touch his wife.’
Billy revealed how the affair had impacted his family, saying ‘a good mate wouldn’t do that’.
In February 2016, news broke Garry Lyon (second from right) – who had separated from his wife, Melissa (right), in 2014 – had been having an affair with Nicky Brownless (second from left, next to Billy Brownless). Pictured on October 20, 2012 in Melbourne
Brownless later said ‘a good mate wouldn’t do that’. Pictured with his daughters Lucy Brownless (right) and Ruby Brownless (left) in 2017
He also confessed Garry and Nicky’s secret relationship could have been going on for up to four years.
‘I couldn’t believe it. I found out three or four months ago. I asked Garry and Nicky earlier on what is going on and they said they were just good friends. That’s what hurts the most,’ Billy said on The AFL Footy Show.
‘By law it’s legal. Morally it’s wrong. We all know our rights and wrongs. You don’t touch a man’s wallet, you don’t touch his wife.’
Brownless told TV Week earlier this year it took him ‘a solid two years’ to recover from the affair.
‘It took a while for me to go to a café or a pub and not think everyone is looking at me and they know. But really, all of that was in my head.’
Shower photo leak
Another AFL star, the headline-magnet Brendan Fevola also found himself embroiled in a messy sex scandal when video footage emerged of Lara Bingle – the fiancee of Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke – naked in his shower.
Although the footage leaked in 2010 pre-dated Clarke and Bingle’s relationship, it proved to be the last straw for the high-profile couple’s relationship.
Michael Clarke and Lara Bingle pose for a photograph as they arrive for the first anniversary of the Louis Vuitton Collins Street store in 2009. The pair memorably split just days after a nude photo of Bingle in the shower leaked in 2010
Clarke flew back from a cricket tour in New Zealand to confront Bingle at their $6 million Bondi apartment and within hours the wedding was off. There were also reports that he had flushed her $200,000 engagement ring down the toilet – a claim he refuted on his radio show just last month.
‘I’m dumb but I’m not that dumb,’ he told his audience. ‘I’m not flushing any ring at any stage. Lara’s not that dumb. She’s not flushing any ring either.’
WAG’s past with sporting great
Clarke’s former Australian teammate David Warner also had to deal with his partner’s romantic past. Warner’s detractors are more than happy to remind him of his wife Candice’s infamous tryst with rugby star Sonny Bill Williams in a toilet cubicle at Sydney’s Clovelly Hotel in 2007.
David and Candice Warner (pictured) had their relationship mocked by rival fans who referenced her previous brief romantic liaison with New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams.
While she was better known as champion ironwoman Candice Falzon back then and she is now a devoted wife and mother of two, the Warners just can’t seem to put the incident behind them.
The Barmy Army continues to sing in full voice, ‘Davie Warner is over the hill – came second to Sonny Bill’ whenever he walks out to bat against the Poms.
Mitchell Johnson’s bitter family rift
They’re good like that, the Barmy Army. Another of their targets was Aussie fast-bowler Mitchell Johnson who was said to be shattered when his mother went public about her dislike for his wife Jessica Bratich just before he arrived in England for the 2009 Ashes series.
Former Australian fast bowler Mitchell Johnson’s first Ashes series was marred by media reports his mum Vikki Harber did not like his now-wife Jessica Bratich. Johnson is pictured with his wife)
Telling the Herald-Sun that her son had virtually turned his back on her since hooking up with the karate champion and cover girl, Johnson’s mother later claimed that she had only learnt of their marriage when she saw it on Facebook.
Miss Bratich was a pin-up star in Australia at the time
All of which was music to the ears of the Barmy Army who wrote a song to the tune of the theme of the TV show The Addams Family: ‘His mother hates his missus, his missus hates his mother. They all hate one another, the Johnson family …’
Ms Harber claimed her relationship with her son had been ‘stolen’ from her by the karate champion.
‘I get a text on Mother’s Day and a text on my birthday,’ she said.
‘It has been like this since Jess came on the scene.
‘Up until he met Jessica we were very close . . . but he hasn’t spent a night under my roof since he met Jessica.’
She also said she was angry Australia’s cricket bosses flew out the players’ ‘bitchy’ girlfriends rather than parents to support their offspring.
In 2011, the public feud seemingly reignited when Ms Harber told New Idea magazine she learnt her son married Ms Bratich through Facebook.
‘I’m gutted … he’s really hurt me,’ Ms Harper told the publication.
‘To send me a Mother’s Day message and never even mention he’d got married … I hadn’t heard from him for months and I was so pleased to get his email.’
Addressing the media circus which surrounded his 2009 Ashes campaign years later, Johnson said the barrage of questions about his personal life took him completely off guard.
Johnson told the BBC’s Test Match Special podcast a decade later the tour began following a ‘really good season’ and he expected to come to England for further accolades, believing ‘people are going to love me here’.
Speaking on BBC’s Test Match Special podcast last year, Johnson opened up about the fallout from the rift between his then-girlfriend and his mother
‘I got to Cardiff and about two days out [from the first Test] some stuff in the paper came out about my mum not liking my girlfriend — now wife — and it just took me by surprise and I didn’t know how to deal with it,’ he said.
AFL great Kieren Jack’s family feud over choice of partner
It’s fortunate that Sydney Swans star Kieren Jack chose to play AFL and not cricket. One can only image what the Barmy Army would have done with his dysfunctional family situation.
Swans 2012 premiership hero Jack Kieren, 32, has been involved in a public split from his father Garry and mother Donna over his relationship with Channel 10 journalist Charlotte Goodlet (Jack pictured with Ms Goodlet)
Just like with Mitchell Johnson and his mother, the Jack family split over Kieren’s choice of wife, Channel 10 reporter Charlotte Goodlet. The relationship between Kieren and his father, former rugby league legend Garry, and mother Donna degenerated to the point where he instructed the Swans not to allow them to attend his 200th and 250th games for the club.
It was later reported that they were not invited to his wedding.
Jack pictured with mother Donna and father Garry. Jack’s estranged father Garry took a subtle shot at his son last season after he and his wife were snubbed from attending Jack’s 250th milestone game
Jack and his family made headlines after his mother Donna took to Twitter claiming she was banned from attending his milestone 200th AFL in July 2016.
‘So sad … you 200 AFL & you don’t want us there, your parents. No appreciation for all the yrs helping you get there,’ Donna wrote in a post that was later deleted.
Tennis legend’s claims about Mark Philippoussis’ sex life
There was no wedding between tennis stars Mark Philippoussis and Russian bombshell Anna Kournikova but their relationship still managed to create a rift between the big-serving Aussie and his coach Pat Cash.
Mark Philippoussis and his wife Silvana Lovin in 2015. Australian tennis star Pat Cash memorably claimed Philippoussis’ sex life may have affected his career
Cash, the 1987 Wimbledon champion, was himself known to enjoy the good times during his playing heyday but no-one could ever question his commitment to training – a virtue he couldn’t convince Philippoussis to adopt when the stunning Kournikova was on the scene.
In his biography ‘Uncovered’, Cash claimed that Kournikova ordered Philippoussis to call her four times a day ‘to tell her how beautiful she was’. In a newspaper column in The Sunday Times the day before Philippoussis faced Roger Federer in the 2003 Wimbledon final, Cash claimed the big-serving Victorian had shared a bed with tennis’ glamour girl the night before a match at the Australian Open.
Cash (pictured after winning Wimbledon in 1987) wrote he struggled to convince Philippoussis having sex before a match was ‘probably not a good idea’
‘One of the trickiest problems I encountered (as his coach) was how do you tell a fit, eligible young man that it’s probably not a good idea to spend the night with Anna Kournikova before a big game,’ he wrote.
And apparently it was not an unusual occurrence. On the same day as Cash’s column, The News of The World also ran a story about Philippoussis’s sex life, quoting former girlfriend Melanie Maudran, who said he ‘insisted’ on having sex before matches, including just prior to going on centre court at Wimbledon.
Nick Kyrgios’ sledges opponent’s girlfriend
Aussie tennis bad-boy Nick Kyrgios makes no secret of his penchant for hooking up with female fans and earned headlines when he delivered a brutal quip toward opponent Stan Wawrinka during a 2015 match in Montreal.
Australian tennis’ perennial bad boy Nick Kyrgios put himself in hot water in 2015 after brutally trash-talking his opponent Stan Wawrinka about his girlfriend’s sexual history (pictured shaking hands after the final set)
Referring to his Australian Davis Cup teammate Thanasi Kokkinakis and Wawrinka’s girlfriend, 19 year-old Croatian Donna Vekic, Kyrgios called out to the Swiss player: ‘Kokkinakis banged your girlfriend. Sorry to tell you that, mate’.
Wawrinka, the reigning Australian and French Open champion, later condemned the remarks in a fiery Twitter spree on Thursday evening.
‘So disappointing to see a fellow athlete and colleague be so disrespectful in a way could never even imagine,’ Wawrinka fumed.
‘To [stoop] so low is not only unacceptable but also beyond belief.’
Vekic dated Wawrinka for four years after the tennis star divorced his wife, Ilham, in early 2015.
Kyrgios told the third-seeded Swiss a teenage Australian player, Thanasi Kokkinakis, ‘banged your girlfriend’. Kokkinakis and Vekic are pictured together during a 2014 doubles match
League war of words over coaching great’s new partner
Not that everyone thinks that sex the night before a match is a bad thing. Veteran rugby league coach Wayne Bennett was once asked his view on the matter.
‘It’s not the sex the night before a game that’s the problem,’ he said, ‘It’s the staying up all night trying to get the sex.’
Bennett found himself embroiled in his own relationship imbroglio when at the age of 68 he left his wife of 42 years for a much younger employee at his club the Newcastle Knights.
NRL coaching great Wayne Bennett formed a relationship with Dale Cage (pictured together) during his stint coaching the Newcastle Knights. His successor at the Knights suggested Bennett had been distracted from his coaching tasks.
While the media largely respected Bennett’s wishes that the break-up be reported respectfully for the sake of his wife and three children, it blew up sensationally two years later when Nathan Brown, the master coach’s replacement at the Knights, hit below the belt at a press conference.
Believing that Bennett had been critical of his coaching record since taking over the club, Brown told a stunned media contingent, ‘The reality is, when Wayne came to town if he’d thought with his big head instead of his little head, I wouldn’t have had to rebuild the joint.’
Bennett was said to be privately fuming over the highly personal remarks but chose not to take matters further.
It was a rare instance of a sports scandal in which someone wisely decided to keep it zipped.