Wallabies coach Dave Rennie hasn’t given up hope teen sensation Joseph Suaalii will snub a big-money offer by NRL club South Sydney to stay with rugby union.
Sir Nicholas Shehadie, one of only two Wallabies to ever be knighted and a former Australian captain, passed away late last night in hospital. He was 92.
Shehadie was a giant of Australia’s sporting landscape. He leaves behind an incomparable legacy, including his key role in launching the first ever Rugby World Cup.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Shehadie was born in Coogee in 1925 and spent his childhood in Redfern.
He made his name as a hard-hitting forward, earning 30 Test caps and representing the Wallabies a total of 114 times between 1947 and 1958 – the first player to break triple figures.
His post-rugby career is even more fabled. After hanging up the boots, he became Lord Mayor of Sydney, Chairman of the SCG Trust and Chairman of SBS, among many other titles. He was married to former New South Wales Governor Dame Marie Bashir for over 60 years.
However, it was as President of the ARU in the 1980s that Shehadie made perhaps his biggest impact on the game, pitching the idea of a World Cup to the International Rugby Football Board. With the backing of New Zealand and France, Shehadie worked hard to win over the home nations.
“The opposition was tremendous, particularly from the northern hemisphere. It was a real battle to get it through,” Shehadie said.
“Ireland was opposed to it … They said it was their game and not our game. And I remember the president of Scotland said ‘over his dead body’. I said, ‘we’ll remember you on that day’.
“The countries that voted against it were the first to nominate to come. It was funny — the players all wanted it. It was just the officials. They always felt it was their game and not our game.”
Ultimately, Shehadie was appointed joint-chairman of the inaugural World Cup committee in 1987.
Tributes to the great man have flown readily as news of Shehadie’s passing has spread through the rugby community and beyond.
Vale Sir Nicholas Shehadie, great Wallaby, businessman, former Lord Mayor of Sydney, architect of first Rugby World Cup, husband of Dame Marie Bashir and patriarch of wonderful family. Passed away overnight, aged 92.
A great Australian.
— Peter FitzSimons (@Peter_Fitz) February 12, 2018
Sad day for Australia with the passing of one of the greatest wallabies to play the game in Sir Nicholas Shehadie.. my condolences to Mick & the family ♥️
— Quade Cooper (@QuadeCooper) February 12, 2018
It’s with great sadness that I report the death of Sir Nicholas Shehadie, aged 92. One of only two Wallabies knighted. The other was Weary Dunlop. That pretty much says it all.
— Wayne Keith Smith (@WayneKeithSmith) February 11, 2018
Vale Sir Nicholas Shehadie. Genuine @GallopingGreens and @qantaswallabies legend and great Australian. Insightful, gregarious, supportive man for the generations of Wicks players that followed him. Wrote his own epitaph. ‘A life worth living’.
— Morgan Turinui (@MorganTurinui) February 11, 2018
Vale Sir Nicholas Shehadie. You will be missed. Here (R) with my uncle, Eric Tweedale (L) and Len Woolf in the centre, 1948. Sir Nick & Eric remained besties to the end. @qantaswallabies @NSWWaratahs pic.twitter.com/g4axGmeGlL
— Carol Duncan ™ (@carolduncan) February 11, 2018
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian offered her condolences to Shehadie’s family as well as the option of a state funeral.
“On behalf of the people of NSW, I extend my deepest sympathies to Sir Nicholas’s wife Dame Marie Bashir and his entire family,” Berejiklian said.
“Sir Nicholas contributed so much to NSW across public life, sport, media and the community and will be deeply missed.”
“Above all else Sir Nicholas was an inspiring, caring and compassionate person and was held in such high affection by so many across the State and nation, including myself.”
Shehadie has been inducted into both the Australian Rugby Hall of Fame and World Rugby Hall of Fame. He is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.