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It’s with a heavy heart today that Australian cricket fans bid farewell to two of the greatest players of all time – Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath (left). Their loss to the sport will be felt the world over, and will leave a huge hole in not only the Australian cricket team, but in Australian sport.

In rallying, we don’t have quite the same personalities, or quite the same holes to fill when a leading driver retires.

But when Possum Bourne was tragically killed in a road accident in April 2002, it left the biggest void in the history of our sport, and one that, nearly five years on, still needs topping up.

Bourne was the best ambassador for the sport that there’s ever been in Australia, despite the fact that he was a New Zealander. He epitomised professionalism, was exceptionally media savvy and was adored by fans young and old.

The Subaru stalwart not only craved the publicity, but the publicity craved him as well. When there seemed little hope that rallying could get the coverage it has so often desired, Bourne would do something to make it happen – a witty one liner, a big crash, or simply driving in his ‘tail-out’ style that made him the crowd favourite.

As Subaru’s main man, he received a percentage of the sale price of every Impreza WRX that was sold, the money going directly into his rally team. What other reason did he need to push the Subaru and WRX names at any opportunity?

With regret, that pulling power has now gone from the top level of Australian rallying. Simon Evans is a brilliant driver, Cody Crocker has the runs on the board and Scott Pedder has a unique rallying pedigree (to name just three drivers), but none of them capture the imagination like Possum Bourne was able to do.

Rallying has tradition, excitement and a dedicated supporter base, but unlike cricket, it doesn’t have the personalities, the rivalries or the media coverage to give it that much needed boost.

It’s a situation that needs addressing, and quickly. If we’re not careful the manufacturers and major sponsors will grow tired of the sport and look to invest their hard earned dollars elsewhere. And that’s a situation that doesn’t bear thinking about for Australian rallying.

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