Packer, Benaud lead tributes for Greig
James Packer, commentary doyen Richie Benaud and former Prime Minister John Howard led the tributes for larger-than-life cricketing identity Tony Greig.
Packer, son of media tycoon Kerry Packer whose close friendship to Greig was built upon the foundations of World Series Cricket, hailed Greig – who suffered a heart attack on Saturday following a short battle with lung cancer – as a trailblazer and said cricket’s modern-day stars were indebted to the former England captain.
“Apart from his considerable talents as a cricketer and then a commentator, (Greig) played an absolutely pivotal role in the success of World Series Cricket, which changed the game forever for the better,” Packer said.
“Tony stood shoulder to shoulder with my father at times when it was not always fashionable.
“And together with the backing of other key players and supporters, they forged a brave new age for both cricketers and spectators alike. For that alone, every fan of the game is in Tony Greig’s debt.
“But he was much more than that. Our cricket enemy turned our mate – his famous car keys stuck in the pitch to demonstrate its hardness, and his legendary but friendly on-air barneys with the great Bill Lawry.”
Benaud was the one who delivered news of Greig’s death to the rest of the commentary team, who were left devastated.
Benaud, the former Australian captain and now respected commentator, recalled Greig’s will to win as his defining characteristic.
“When he played cricket, he was big and he did big things,” Benaud told the Nine Network.
“And he didn’t care about anyone else who was bigger or perhaps might even be faster or anything like that. He would just get in there and fight.”
Greig and Bill Lawry’s playful on-air fisticuffs defined Australia’s cricket coverage for three decades and they grew to be great friends.
Lawry was shattered by the news, saying the 66-year-old was “an Englishman with an Australian attitude” – before admitting how big a hole his exit from the commentary had left this summer.
“I missed Tony this summer just in the commentary team and now he’s gone forever,” Lawry said.
“My wife and I are absolutely shattered and we really feel for Vivian and his four children today.
“I have missed him terribly this year, not knowing how sick he was.”
Mr Howard, Australia’s most famous “cricket tragic”, loved Greig’s spirit.
“He would always as a former English captain have a bit of a jab at the Australians,” he said.
“That was all part of the spirit in which the game has always been played.”
To everyone else, Greig was remembered as combative in every facet of his life and someone who revelled in being the villain both on and off the field.
“Tony was a tough opponent who took on all opposition with aggression and a determination to win,” said Australian fast bowling legend Dennis Lillee.
“He had a take-no-prisoners attitude which helped him lead England with flare and toughness.
“We will not forget the way he stirred the viewers in a similar vein to the way he did to opposition teams.”
Greig – and various Greig-related – hash tags began trending on Twitter soon after news broke mid-afternoon as dozens of current and former cricketers left their own tributes on the social networking site.
Australian Test captain Michael Clarke said the news was devastating for the Test team.
“I was only speaking with Tony a couple of days ago so news of his passing is absolutely devastating,” Clarke said.
“Personally, he has also been a great mentor for me, providing great advice through the good times and the bad.”© AAP 2014