Jock Hobbs

CAPS 21

NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences -

Jock Hobbs was the man who saved rugby. That’s the best way to think of him. He had been a good open­side flanker in the 1980s, win­ning 21 test caps and even cap­tain­ing the side on oc­ca­sion.

He could play. He was brave and as­tute, but he was forced to call it quits ear­lier than he wanted be­cause of re­peated con­cus­sions.

Forced out of the game be­fore his time, he de­voted him­self to es­tab­lish­ing his le­gal ca­reer, which took him back into rugby cir­cles be­cause as a former player and lawyer, Hobbs be­came the per­fect man to deal with the crises which brewed to­wards the end of the 1995 World Cup.

Aus­tralian me­dia mogul Kerry Packer was try­ing to set up his rebel World Rugby Cor­po­ra­tion and, by the last week of the World Cup, it looked like he was go­ing to suc­ceed.

Many of the All Blacks and their coun­ter­parts from the other lead­ing na­tions had signed. They liked the pay pack­ets on o er and while the con­cept didn’t thrill them, the prospect of fi­nally be­ing paid did.

So Hobbs was given the brief to win the play­ers back. It took diplo­macy and tact to per­suade the play­ers to come back from the brink. And there is no way the play­ers would have even talked to Hobbs if they hadn’t deeply re­spected him.

They knew he was one of them. They knew he had bled for the jer­sey and that he wasn’t just some suit try­ing to talk them round. He made an im­pas­sioned case that hit home and minds were changed.

Hobbs saved rugby and then, in 2005, he had a huge role in help­ing New Zealand win the 2011 World Cup host­ing rights.

It was Hobbs, along with NZR chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Moller, who mas­ter­minded the bid strat­egy.

In­stead of run­ning a ma­jor PR cam­paign to win over me­dia, they flew around the world for the bet­ter part of two years to strengthen their re­la­tion­ships with World Rugby vot­ing mem­bers.

It was the harder road to take but worth­while and by Novem­ber 2005, the key del­e­gates felt noth­ing but warmth and a ec­tion for New Zealand’s bid be­cause they had come to like and trust Hobbs.

It was a clever play by a clever man. Per­haps the most poignant mo­ment to con­firm the stand­ing of Hobbs came at the 2011 World Cup.

Sadly Hobbs was se­ri­ously ill by the time the tour­na­ment kicked o but he made it to Eden Park on the night Richie McCaw won his 100th cap and he made the af­ter match pre­sen­ta­tion to the All Blacks skip­per.

The un­flap­pable McCaw was vis­i­bly moved by the pres­ence of Hobbs who was clearly bat­tling phys­i­cally. “I’ve got a huge amount of re­spect for that fella,” McCaw said that night, with his voice thick with emo­tion. “He’s been through a tough time, but he’s a fighter and he’s largely re­spon­si­ble for why the tour­na­ment’s here. To have him here to­day was some­thing pretty spe­cial.”

Hobbs died in March 2012 but his legacy lives on with an Un­der 19 an­nual tour­na­ment hav­ing been named af­ter him.

DEEP RE­SPECT Jock Hobbs was ad­mired and re­spected around the world.

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