Former Hampshire stars saluted by Australian Premier Minister at the Sydney Opera House (From Hampshire Chronicle)
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Former Hampshire stars saluted by Australian Premier Minister at the Sydney Opera House
7:48am Tuesday 7th January 2014 in Sport
Michael Clarke's Ashes winners paraded their spoils in front of an adoring Australian public, and Prime Minister Tony Abbott, at a reception beside the Sydney Opera House.
A replica urn and crystal trophy were in attendance, along with Australia's 'unchangeables' - the same XI who thrashed England in every Test - and thousands of delighted supporters cheering their heroes.
Clarke told them of the players' pride at whitewashing the tourists, and Prime Minister Abbott spoke of a "champion" team who had "whipped" England.
David Warner, the combative opener noted for his aggressive run-scoring and on-pitch 'banter' in almost equal measure, and demon bowler Mitchell Johnson also had their say.
Addressing the crowd, Clarke - who had a season at Hampshire in 2004 - thanked all those who have cheered his team on this winter.
"I'm extremely proud. It's an amazing achievement," he said.
"The players are extremely proud, and I think every single one of the public should be as well.
"The work the guys have put in over a long period of time, we've finally got the rewards.
"It's extremely satisfying, and shows hard work does pay off."
Australia have beaten England by a record cumulative margin, scoring more than 1,000 runs in four matches and taking eight wickets in Melbourne.
Yet Clarke has maintained throughout that it has been far from easy.
"We knew this series was going to be tough... but when we had the opportunity to stand up, every single one of the players did that," he added.
"Our preparation and hard work are the reasons we sit here with success today."
Warner, meanwhile, was unrepentant about his reported goading of opponents out in the middle.
"Apparently I said some rude things that were picked up on stump mic, that you can't say - but I don't recall any of them.
"You don't cross that line. Probably we got close to it a couple of times, but I think we really got into their heads.
"With Johnno, the pressure of the other bowlers up the other end allowed Mitchell to come out and fire like that.
"It was awesome."
Johnson, especially, could reflect on a series of redemption - after his many previous Ashes struggles, during which he was often the butt of jokes among the English crowd.
"It's just been amazing," he said.
"The 'Barmy Army' have given me a hard time over the years.
"So it was nice to put up five fingers for the 5-0 win... to be sat up here now, just seeing all the smiling faces, it's really cool."
Abbott spoke for a nation, emphasising how much any Ashes success means to Australia - let alone a whitewash.
"It is an extraordinary honour to congratulate this champion team, and this team of champions," he said.
"In our country, summer means cricket.
"A good summer is Australia versus England, and a great summer is one where Australia beats England ... and didn't we whip them in this particular series?"
Former Hampshire players Shane Watson and George Bailey were also ever presents in Australia's second 5-0 home Ashes win in the last three series Down Under.
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