Opinion: Candice Warner doesn't owe you an apology

Penny Burfitt
·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·7-min read

OPINION

Candice Warner became a professional ironwoman competitior when she was just 14 years old in 1999.

The mum of three is a renowned sportswoman and a force to be reckoned with on SAS Australia, where she is currently showing off the sheer will she probably honed from being slut-shamed for over a decade over a drunken incident with one of the world’s most famous sportspeople.

Because that’s what it is really isn’t it? Slut-shaming pure and simple.

Candice Warner sex scandal Sonny Bill Williams incident
Candice Warner got messy in a bathroom when she was 22 in scenes familiar to most people who have been 22. Photo: Getty Images

I know we’re not supposed to say that. We should say ‘tryst’, ‘scandal’, ‘embarrassing incident’, but what is really embarrassing, is that this woman has been made to marinate in shame and humiliation for more than ten years over one drunken incident in 2007.

And in 2020, we’re putting her on to simmer some more.

Candice Falzon, as she was known then, was videoed getting steamy in a toilet cubicle at Clovelly Hotel with Sonny Bill Williams, then the star rookie Bulldogs player making a name for himself in the NRL.

Since then, Candice’s name is often said in the same sentence as ‘scandal’, but that’s actually the extent of her personal public missteps.

That one single evening.

Candice Warner in 2007 toilet tryst scandal Sonny Bill Williams
Candice was caught up in a scandal over a toilet tryst with Sonny Bill Williams in 2007. Photo: Getty Images
Sonny Bill Williams Candice Falzon Warner scandal
Sonny Bill was caught in a drunken tryst with Candice in an Eastern Suburbs pub. Photo: Getty Images

She’s discussed it extensively, given out apology after apology.

Once, at the time of the incident in 2007. Again for the ABC’s Australian Story program in 2008, and again in 2012.

And in most public interviews, it at least gets a mention.

In 2018, of course, she was infamously the victim of ‘sledging’, or what is really just public humiliation, when cricket fans appeared in face masks of Sonny Bill to tease her husband David Warner in the midst of the South African tour, that ultimately ended in his fall from grace at the hands of the ball-tampering incident.

She was an easy prop in that scenario, a ‘fallen woman’ we all easily kicked while she was down, and kept down.

Cricket fans taunted David, via Candice, with images of Sonny Bill Williams a full  11 years after the incident. Photo: Twitter/ SACricketmag
Cricket fans taunted David, via Candice, with images of Sonny Bill Williams a full 11 years after the incident. Photo: Twitter/ SACricketmag

Candice confronts ‘big mistake’ on SAS Australia

This year, she addressed the incident once again on SAS Australia.

“In my early 20s I made a very big mistake,” she told the camera. “It’s not something I can take back.”

She expressed regret over bringing ‘embarrassment and shame’ to her family and then got prickly and defensive as the SAS trainer began to further question her about it.

Candice Warner on SAS Australia discusses Sonny Bill Williams toilet scandal.
Once again, Candice expressed egret over the 'big mistake' we have never let her forget. Photo: Getty Images

Asked to elaborate on the incident, a formerly cheerful Candice buckled down.

“No,” she told Ant Middleton. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

The only way she would describe it was as a ‘bad incident’ a ‘bad mistake’.

“It must have been a really bad mistake,” Ant, one of the trainers, observed. “Why can’t you talk about it?”

RELATED:

Well, the thing I really wanted to know was - why in God’s name should she?

Why are we discussing a then-22-year-old getting randy in a toilet cubicle, instead of how inherently f**ed up it is that a 33-year-old mother of three was taunted over the incident by male cricket fans, who were hoping to use her to humiliate her husband over a decade later?

Candice and David Warner with their three children
Candice was used as a weapon to undermine her husband in 2018. Photo: Getty Images

How foul it is that her singular past indiscretion is dredged up at every public venture Candice undertakes.

(The fact that Candice’s ‘lack of virtue’ as a young athlete was seen as the most effective weapon to undermine her husband is a whole other can of gender role worms I invite you to ruminate on at your leisure.)

Meanwhile, in a twist unsurprising to anyone who has spent time contemplating the footy culture that presides in Australia, Sonny Bill Williams has been allowed to relegate the incident to past indiscretions that ‘made him who he is’.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 15: Sonny Bill Williams laughs as he arrives for a Sydney Roosters training session at Tramway Oval at Moore Park on August 15, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
Sonny Bill's only references to his past indiscretions these days are as long-ago actions that made him stronger. Photo: Getty Images

He has addressed it only once directly, with a statement expressing regret and asserting he had no memory of the incident at the time.

And subsequently, it was mentioned in passing in a 2011 interview with The Sydney Morning Herald as ‘the thing with Candice’.

A ‘tell all’ interview with The Guardian in 2013 didn’t even mention Candice or the incident directly, with just one line referring to his "alcohol-related indiscretions".

That is plural discretions, because Sonny Bill, unlike Candice, was being dogged by them at the time. Drunk driving, public urination, and he and Candice’s brief encounter. Not to mention he, unlike Candice, was in a committed relationship at the time.

And yet, a news.com.au article on the player earlier this year reflected on Sonny Bill’s brush with indiscretions with, “[his] beautiful family would never have grown so perfectly without those mistakes that turned Williams’ life around.”

As the Guardian article states, those mistakes were stepping stones on the path to his new, enlightened self.

And all power to him, but for Candice, that same incident was a stepping stone to nowhere, that left her reputation indefinitely marooned.

Candice Falzon Warner wins Ironwoman 2012
Candice won the Ironwoman in 2012, but her press coverage was still toilets and scandals, five years one. Photo: Getty Images

Still need convincing?

In 2012 Candice finally nailed her lifelong goal and won a Nutri-Grain Ironwoman race.

A month later, an article on Candice mentioned her win in the ninth paragraph. The article’s headline though? Candice Falzon breaks her silence on life after public humiliation with Sonny Bill Williams.

This year, the SAS trainers continuously told Candice not to ‘get defensive’, to ‘let her walls down’ while they grilled her over the incident.

“Why the defensive mode, why are you jumping down my throat?” a bewildered Ant Middleton wondered, though how he could be bewildered is beyond me.

People build walls to stave off attacks and Candice has been dodging arrows since she was 22-years-old. Anyone who encourages her to let her walls down is giving her patently poor advice.

That’s not to say that Sonny Bill escaped the scandal unharmed. It rocked his career, played a part in his infamous departure from the Bulldogs, and subsequent stint in Toulon.

But more than a decade later, do you think Sonny Bill Williams would be grilled solely over his tryst with Candice Falzon if he appeared on SAS Australia and nothing else?

Candice Warner with David warner and daughters Sonny Bill Williams unfair
Why is Candice Warner, an Ironwoman, mum and SAS champion still apologising for one mistake? Photo: Getty Images

In fact, in a surprising twist, it was Nova 96.9’s Fitzy who summed up the situation best when Candice discussed being grilled over the incident with him and radio co-host Wippa.

“It's a classic case of society, isn't it, Candice?” he reflected on the show. “Where the focus was always on you and not the other person that you had that tryst with that everyone was speaking about.”

Candice described her 2007 hook up with Sonny Bill as a ‘bad mistake’.

But was it the incident, or the fall out that was the biggest misstep?

Why, in 2020 is Candice Warner still apologising to us for an incident that spawned the kind of savage coverage and brutal public shaming that lead her to sit at Watson’s Bay Gap and contemplate her existence in her 20s, as The Sunday Telegraph reported?

Seems to me, the wrong person is apologising.

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