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Tuesday January 7, 2014 MYT 12:57:02 PM
Tuesday January 7, 2014 MYT 12:57:12 PM
by nick mulvenney
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia's triumphant cricket team were feted by thousands of fans and the country's Prime Minister at Sydney Opera House on Tuesday after winning back the Ashes with a thumping 5-0 series sweep over England at the weekend.
England's cricketers were derided in Australia after parading through London in a open-top bus after winning the urn in 2005 and this was a far more sober affair.
"The Ashes are the world's oldest continuous sporting contest," Prime Minister Tony Abbott said in a speech.
"They are proof that the greatest of friendships can co-exist with the fiercest of competitions.
"And I just want to say to all of our players, thank you for making every one of us so proud this summer and thank you for showing the grit and the character which you displayed this summer."
Abbott perhaps underestimated the edge that existed between the two teams, particularly in the opening test in Brisbane after which Australia captain Michael Clarke was fined for saying an England player was about to have his arm broken.
Clarke, who holds the post considered second in importance only to Abbott's in Australia, was back at his statesmanlike best on Tuesday, though.
"Extremely proud I guess is probably the way I feel at the moment," he said after thanking the fans for their support throughout the series.
"The work the guys have put in over a long period of time we finally got the rewards so its obviously extremely satisfying. It shows hard work does pay off."
The ceremony took place just a couple of hundred yards away from where Australia launched their 2010-11 Ashes campaign with a rain-soaked ceremony that set the tone for a humiliating 3-1 defeat to England.
That was the second of three successive Ashes triumphs for the English, the third a 3-0 win last year when Clarke saw the first signs that Australia might be starting to turn things around.
"I think our attitude certainly changed, our work ethic, you know I couldn't fault the players in the UK," he said.
"There was a little bit of bad luck at times ... but we knew as a team that we were heading in the right direction. So, our preparation, our hard work are the reasons we sit here, with success, today."
Fan John Jones was delighted he had made the effort to bring his children along to celebrate only the third 5-0 sweep in the history of the Ashes after Australia's 1920-21 and 2006-7 triumphs.
"It's not every day you get a 5-0 thrashing of England so it's a good reason to be here," he told Reuters. "For the kids as well, they love seeing the cricketers, fantastic."
Opening batsman Chris Rogers, an accomplished dancer, missed the Prime Minister's speech.
"There was plenty of Michael Jackson last night, that's perhaps why I'm late," he told reporters, sunglasses protecting his eyes despite the overcast conditions.
"I never thought I'd be part of something like this so I'm milking it for all it's worth."
(Additional reporting by Stuart McDill, editing by Patrick Johnston)
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