FORMER ALL BLACKS great Jock Hobbs died in Wellington today at the age of 52 after battling leukaemia.
Hobbs stood down from his role as chairman of the New Zealand Rugby Union and Rugby World Cup Committee last year when his illness was diagnosed.
However, he was on hand to present New Zealand’s first Test centurions Richie McCaw and Mils Muliaina with their silver caps to mark their honour during the World Cup.
The former Canterbury representative made his mark as a player during the Ranfurly Shield era under coach Alex Wyllie in the 1980s. From there he won selection for the All Blacks for the first time for the home series against the British and Irish Lions in 1983.
He was also remembered for being part of the unsanctioned rebel Cavaliers tour of South Africa in 1986. But after just 21 appearances for New Zealand, continuing problems with concussion resulted in Hobbs quitting the game prematurely in 1987 at the age of just 27.
He was elected to the board of the New Zealand Rugby Union in 1995 and after losing his seat in 1996, regained it in 2002 and was appointed chairman. The man who replaced him as NZRU chairman, Mike Eagle, led the tributes earlier: “It is with heavy hearts that we acknowledge the passing of an incredible New Zealander.
“New Zealand has lost an inspirational leader with an incredible passion for the game of rugby and the part it plays in our lives.”
NZRU chief executive Steve Tew added: “Rugby has lost a great friend. We will all miss his integrity, dogged determination and incredible sense of justice.”
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said Hobbs was key to securing the Rugby World Cup hosting rights for the 2011 showcase, at which the All Blacks were triumphant.
“I have known Jock for a long time and have enjoyed his company on many an occasion. We have talked and laughed and discussed the country’s political and sporting problems. I will miss him very much,” Key said.
“Jock was the man who convinced Dublin that New Zealand should host last year’s Rugby World Cup. This was possibly his finest hour. Winning the trophy was certainly one of New Zealand’s finest hours.”
Current All Black Cory Jane posted on Twitter: “RIP Jock Hobbs.. A Great man and legend for all he did for NZ rugby.”