14 Mar 2012

Rugby great Jock Hobbs dies

2:48 pm on 14 March 2012

The former All Blacks captain and New Zealand Rugby Union chair, Jock Hobbs, died in Wellington on Tuesday, after a battle with leukaemia. He was 52.

Jock Hobbs was selected as an All Black in 1983, and played 21 test matches.

He became captain the next year, at the age of 24, and led the team on three overseas tours.

He chaired the Rugby Union for eight years from 2002, before stepping down in order to undergo treatment for cancer.

During his time at the NZRU, Mr Hobbs was pivotal in the successful bid for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

Early years

Michael "Jock" Hobbs was born in Christchurch on 15 February 1960 and was educated at Christ's College and at Canterbury University where he studied law, graduating LLB in 1982.

After practising law for a time, becoming a partner in a law firm, he gave it up for business.

In 1999, he became a director of the Strategic Property Group, taking a Master of Business Administration at Henley College in London in the same year. He stepped down as chief executive in 2005.

His representative rugby career began in the early 1980s, when he was a key member of Canterbury's Ranfurly Shield team.

Following his All Black career, Mr Hobbs captained the rebel team on the 1986 unauthorised tour of South Africa, which he later regretted. National teams at the time were effectively banned from playing South Africa because of the republic's apartheid policy but when the planned All Blacks tour was cancelled, all but two of the 30 selected players defied the government of the time and toured as the Cavaliers.

The players were banned for just two tests. He regained his test place against Australia and at the end of 1986 captained the All Blacks on the tour of France.

He was tipped to be captain for the first Rugby World Cup in 1987 but was forced to retire from the game after suffering too many concussions.

Change to administration

He subsequently became an administrator and was serving as a Rugby Union councillor in 1995, when he succeeded in convincing players not to join the Kerry Packer-backed World Rugby Corporation as paid professionals.

Mr Hobbs, along with Colin Meads, was dropped from the Rugby Union council the following year but was in 2002 returned as chairman.

He was crucial to the success of the bid for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, and is credited with persuading then Prime Minister Helen Clark to fly to the International Rugby Board meeting in Dublin to pledge Government support for the bid.

Mr Hobbs acknowledged in 2009 he was being treated for a chronic form of leukaemia. The following year he stepped down as chair of the Rugby Union, after being diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

He was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2006, and last year was recognised for his services to rugby at the International Rugby Board awards in Auckland.

He is survived by his wife Nicola and their four children.

Political tributes

Prime Minister John Key says he is incredibly sad at the news Jock Hobbs has lost his battle with leukaemia.

He says Mr Hobbs was a man whose determination drove him to many successes in his life and says it was that determination that saw him wage war against his illness for a prolonged period.

Mr Key says he has known Mr Hobbs for a long time, has enjoyed his company on many occasions and will miss him very much.

Labour Party leader David Shearer says Mr Hobbs was a tremendous New Zealander who dedicated his life to the country's national sport and was a driving force behind the successful bid for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

He says he was an inspiration to all Kiwis not only for his amazing achievements as a top sportsman and administrator, but also for the courage he showed while battling his illness.