Randwick Rugby is in mourning with the passing of rugby and Australian legend, Sir Nicholas Shehadie. Sincere condolences are extended to his beloved family and friends.
The grand old man of Australian rugby, a man whose playing, administrative, and honorary career spanned no less than eight decades, has left us. Sir Nicholas Shehadie, aged 91, has passed away overnight.
Home turf: Australian rugby union footballer Nicholas Shehadie training for Randwick in 1947.
Vale, Sir Nicholas, you will long be warmly remembered by all those who had the privilege of playing with you and against you, all those who came across you around the rugby traps, all those who benefited from the extraordinary energy and wisdom you put into the game they play in heaven. (Tempo and Brock no doubt have you in the Wallaby side, this Saturday at 3pm, and you, of course, will be captain.)
A measure of Sir Nicholas's playing prowess was the fact that the hulking prop was just – if you can believe it – fifteen years old when he turned out for his beloved Randwick Rugby Club in 1941, and only a year older when he took the field for the Waratahs for the first time, with rugby ranks admittedly severely depleted by so many being away for the Second World War.
At 22 he was picked for the tour that would define his playing career, the magnificent 1947/1948 Wallabies – touring for nine months, through the then Ceylon, France, Britain, Ireland and the United States – where he made 24 appearances, including the last two Tests.
A prop with skills but no frills, he was notable for his strength, endurance and sheer toughness. It was on that tour that he earned the deep respect of Wallabies as much as a decade older. For the rest of his life, the other 29 Wallabies on that tour were like his brothers, and as a group, they and their wives remained very tight ever after.
Of Sir Nicholas, his rugby brothers had every reason to remain inordinately proud as he went on to greatness, including shining against the Lions in 1950, and captaining the Wallabies for a Test against South Africa in 1953. In 1957, he became the first Wallaby to double up and go on another tour of the British Isles and Europe.
Sir Nicholas Shehadie was a former Lord Mayor of Sydney, the head of SBS and of course, Wallaby captain.
This made him an obvious candidate – when aligned with his sterling business career and his successful term as the Lord Mayor of Sydney – to get involved in rugby administration, where again he shone as no-one before or since.
Appointed chairman of the NSW Rugby Union in 1979, he became president of the ARU the following year and – even while also fulfilling the role as chairman of SBS – was a driving force for change in the game.
Against entrenched opposition, Sir Nicholas charged forth regardless, with skills but no frills just as he had in times of yore, and it was he who was most insistent that it was time for the rugby world to actually have a world rugby championship, a World Cup.
When the inaugural version came to fruition in 1987, it was with Sir Nicholas as joint-chair of the committee which ran it.
After the stunning success of the tournament, won by New Zealand, it was only a matter of time before rugby turned professional. But still, the new, shining game that emerged in the 1990s, with all its bells and whistles, never turned its back on him, and he remained for the next 30 years one of our game's most revered, universally beloved figures along with the likes of late Wallaby coaches David Brockhoff and Bob Templeton.
Sir Nicholas continued to give back to the game, including filling the role of Patron of the Cauliflower Club - the rugby charity started by Nick Farr-Jones and myself seven years ago. At our lunches he would arrive early, make whatever speeches and toasts required of him with elan, and leave late.
He was rugby royalty, albeit with extraordinary humility. But there was no-one in the rugby world he did not know, no rugby yarn he didn't enjoy hearing or recounting, no rugby task left undone when he could possibly do anything to help.
In latter years, of course, Sir Nicholas's role in public was primarily that of being the husband of NSW's beloved Governor, Dame Marie Bashir.
Particularly in the early years of her term, whenever you saw Her Excellency in public – usually besieged by an adoring public – you could look over her right shoulder and there he would be, smiling proudly, waiting patiently, doing his bit to support her in this grand role, just as she had done so much to support him in so many of his grand roles, for so many decades.
So yes, vale Sir Nicholas Shehadie. The great old game was honoured to have you, first as a player, then as an administrator, then as a shining light for what rugby values are all about. You will be missed.
And to you, Dame Marie, Sir Nicholas's devoted wife of 61 years, all of us extend to you our very deepest condolences. He was a great man, and you, his perfect partner.
Sonny Bill Williams
Sir Nicholas Shehadie a good friend and former Wallaby captain.Thankyou for all the advice and kind words over the years I will miss http://you.My thoughts and prayers are with the family
Peter FitzSimons SMH 12 February 2018