Tuesday, March 13, 2012

RIP Jock Hobbs

We're deeply saddened by the very recent announcement of the death of Jock Hobbs; the Herald reports:

A head injury prematurely terminated his playing career and a serious illness ended Jock Hobbs' weighty off-field contributions to rugby before ultimately claiming his life.

A former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) board chairman, Hobbs died today at the age of 52.

His passing came six years after he was first diagnosed with leukaemia in 2006.

Unexpected complications arose soon after he completed his chemotherapy treatment in May 2010, and eight months later Hobbs was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which required a more aggressive treatment regime.

Jock Hobbs was a magnificent servant of New Zealand rugby, both as a player and later as an administrator. He was also pivotal in New Zealand's bid to be awarded the hosting rights for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

There was barely a dry eye in the house when a clearly ill Hobbs presented Richie McCaw with his cap after the pool game against France where McCaw became the first All Black to play 100 test matches. It was a blessing that he survived to see the All Blacks win the RWC for the second time, after having to retire prior to the first tournament due to repeated head injuries. The photograph above is especially poignant.

The Herald also summarises Hobbs' off-field career:

He was a fresh faced NZRU councillor in 1995 when he fronted as a central, unifying figure to defuse a potentially explosive rift between the players and the NZRU when rugby went professional.

Hobbs was lauded as "the man who saved rugby'' after persuading All Blacks poised to join a breakaway professional circus to return to the NZRU fold.

The defection of New Zealand's top players to the Kerry Packer-backed World Rugby Corporation was considered a done deal until Hobbs, still a fledgling administrator, worked around the clock for six weeks to secure the players' signatures for the NZRU.

As well, the delicate negotiations were complicated by the need to finance the new professional game, which was achieved through a 10-year funding stream from Rupert Murdoch's News Ltd, which financed the Super competition between franchise teams from New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.

For all of this Hobbs was unceremoniously dumped from the NZRU council the following year when a revamp saw the number of seats trimmed to nine, and he did not figure at the head table again until his services were sought out following the debacle surrounding New Zealand's loss of the sub-hosting rights for the 2003 World Cup tournament.

He was installed as board chairman in 2002 to pick up the pieces and rebuild the organisation's reputation, something he achieved to such a degree that he was able to plot New Zealand's successful bid to host the 2011 World Cup - which arguably will be his lasting legacy.

Jock Hobbs is survived by his wife Nicky, and four children to whom we send our most sincere condolences. Nicky is the sister of Wallabies coach Robbie Deans. Our thoughts, our prayers and our aroha are with both the Hobbs and Deans families in this time of profound sadness.

Jock Hobbs was a great rugby man; a mighty Totara has fallen. His loss will be deeply and widely felt. Arohanui Jock; rest peacefully.

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