Jock Hobbs passes away

Former All Black and NZRU chairman Jock Hobbs has died, aged 52.

Hobbs had been suffering from leukemia, and the NZRU confirmed the news on behalf of his family, who thanked everyone for the outpouring of support they have received.

NZRU chairman Mike Eagle lamented "the passing of an incredible New Zealander".

“Our hearts and love go out to Jock’s wife Nicky, his children Emily, Michael, Penny and Isabelle, as well as his wider family.

“New Zealand has lost an inspirational leader with an incredible passion for the game of rugby and the part it plays in our lives.

“I know many New Zealanders will join us in expressing their sorrow at his passing.”

NZRU Chief Executive Steve Tew added that, “Rugby has lost a great friend. We will all miss his integrity, dogged determination and incredible sense of justice.”

Tributes are flowing for Hobbs, with the ARU tweeting, "On behalf of Australian Rugby, we send our condolences to the family of Jock Hobbs following his passing this afternoon."

All Black winger Cory Jane tweeted, "RIP Jock Hobbs.. A Great man and legend for all he did for NZ rugby."

Prime Minister John Key has also offered his condolences.

“I have known Jock for a long time and have enjoyed his company on many an occasion. We have talked and laughed and discussed the country’s political and sporting problems. I will miss him very much.

"I know I join with Jock’s wife Nicky, his four children, and many friends in being very grateful for the time we had with him.

“I join with all of them in celebrating his life and knowing that ours will be the poorer without him.”

Hobbs played 39 games as a flanker for the All Blacks, including 21 tests, and captained the side in 16 of those games, until concussion problems forced his premature retirement at the age of 26.

After retirement Hobbs stayed heavily connected with rugby, and was involved with the NZRU for more than 15 years, of which almost ten of them were spent as chairman.

He is often credited with 'saving rugby' as it was his last-ditch negotiations that persuaded many top players to sign with the NZRU, and not the Kerry Packer-backed World Rugby Corporation in 1995.

He was instrumental in bringing the World Cup to our shores, when he headed to Dublin with then-prime minister Helen Clark and a negotiation team that included rugby greats Sir Colin Meads and Tana Umaga in 2005.

When New Zealand emerged from the IRB Council meeting with the 2011 World Cup hosting rights, the impression gained by those present was that Hobbs' negotiation skills had won the day.

It was around this time he was first diagnosed with leukemia, and in May 2010 he was diagnosed with a more severe form and was told he would need six months of chemotherapy.

In December 2010, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma which required more aggressive treatment over an extended period, and opted to resign from the NZRU and Rugby New Zealand 2011 Ltd boards to focus on his health.

His son Michael, a Super Rugby first five-eighth for the Blues, returned from their campaign in South Africa to be with the family.

Hobbs, a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM), is survived by his wife Nicki, a sister of former All Blacks fullback and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans, and children Michael, Emily, Penny and Isabella.