Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hansen and McCaw lead rugby's tributes to Hobbs James Mortimer - (15/03/2012)

 The emotional outpouring of tributes and grief for former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Jock Hobbs continued, with Richie McCaw, Steve Hansen and Sir Graham Henry reflecting on the great man.

A tremendous story of the man’s passion for the game has emerged where Hobbs joined the All Blacks in training on several occasions (the above picture is Hobbs with Henry and McCaw at a training run in 2008), with Hansen saying he never held back, while McCaw reflected that Hobbs insisted full treatment and happily held the tackle bags, even more joyously getting up to take more hits as needed.

Current All Blacks coach Hansen had played alongside Hobbs, and hailed his old friends achievements.

"There have been a lot of great people involved in New Zealand rugby," Hansen said to 

"But I think this man is the greatest.

"When you go back through the history of administration, he has been involved in all the big, critical moments. So many times New Zealand rugby has needed someone to stand up and it just seemed to be Jock at the forefront of it, supported by other people obviously.

"He has been a great New Zealander and we will sadly miss him."

"He was like the Nelson Mandela for us. Everyone just loved him.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw received his cap from Hobbs in his 100th test match, with the World Cup winning skipper saying he had “a helluva a lot of respect for that fella” as the man integral to New Zealand receiving the World Cup hosting rights was familiar as a fellow openside flanker.

"He doesn't need to say much; just having him around was pretty special,” McCaw said to the NZ Herald.

"And putting that aside, he's just a good man to have a beer with and he's a good mate."

"That's the people you want to be around.

"Sure, he was chairman of the rugby union. But he cared about individuals and that's what I enjoyed."

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder had a unique relationship with Hobbs as “the man who saved rugby” persuaded the then Canterbury flanker to remain with New Zealand rugby amidst the threat of a new professional league. Despite the threat, Hobbs came to see players all around the country and fought against the spectre of the best players leaving, and Blackadder recalled his determination.

"… Jock came and spoke to us and convinced us to do otherwise. He was that sort of guy,” he said to the Press.

"It is a tragedy to lose someone who has given so much to the game."

Sir Graham Henry, who was regularly involved with Hobbs as the two worked closely as coach and chairman, said to RadioLIVE his passion for the game was evident on all levels.

“He gave his all to rugby on the field and he gave his all to rugby off the field,” Henry said.

“He would be the person who did the most to keep the game intact, and gave us all special moments.”

A fellow former All Blacks captain and long time companion on the New Zealand Rugby Union board Graham Mourie said as a leader his led from the front.

"He stepped up and answered the call when we lost the World Cup bid,” Mourie said. 

“As a chairman he was highly intelligent, had great empathy with people and got to the core of issues.

"He steered the board well over the past decade. His leadership was inspiring. It is a very sad day for us."

Legendary All Black Colin Meads hailed Hobbs as “the best” administrator, praising his results.

"Jock was one of the greatest administrators New Zealand ever had. He saved the game."

The International Rugby Board continued the tributes, with chairman Bernard Lappasset reflecting on his achievements especially with last year’s Rugby World Cup.

“Jock’s contribution to New Zealand Rugby as a player and Chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Union and to world Rugby as an IRB Council Member has been exceptional,” he said. 

“Among numerous highlights, he provided the vision, passion and leadership that secured New Zealand the right to host RWC 2011 and as Chairman of RNZ 2011 those qualities laid the foundations for a hugely successful tournament of which New Zealanders and the global Rugby family can be proud. 

“On behalf of the IRB and the global Rugby family, I would like to extend my sincere condolences to Jock’s wife Nicky, his family and friends at this sad time.”

South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins offered his condolences to the Hobbs family.

“Jock’s wife, Nicky, his children and the rest of his family are in our thoughts and prayers at this time,” he said.

“Jock was a great ambassador and advocate for New Zealand rugby and we will miss his engagement quite as much as will New Zealanders. As a player and as an administrator he made an impact in world rugby and one of the enduring memories will be of his appearance on the field during the Rugby World Cup last year.

“I’m sure it was a great comfort to his family and to the New Zealand rugby community that he was able to enjoy that day in the midst of his battle against illness. We’ll all miss him.”

Australian Rugby Union Managing Director and CEO, John O’Neill AO said Hobbs was a key player in a strong trans-Tasman relationship.

“Jock was a tremendously proud New Zealander who had an amazing passion for Rugby and was a great friend and ally of Australian Rugby Union,” O’Neill said.

“He was one of the pivotal men who helped win the Rugby war in 1995, ensuring players in New Zealand remained in the establishment of Rugby.

“In 2002 when he returned as Chairman of NZRU he was highly instrumental in restoring a good constructive relationship with ARU.

“Jock was also at the forefront of his country’s bid to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup, which was a resounding success for Rugby and New Zealand last year.

“He will be greatly missed.

“ARU and the whole Australian Rugby community extend our deepest sympathies to his wife Nicky and his children, his extended family and the broader Rugby community in New Zealand.” 

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