Tributes flow for Wallaby great Shehadie

Melissa Woods

Players, coaches and sports administrators have paid tribute to Australian rugby great Sir Nicholas Shehadie, who died in Sydney on Sunday aged 92.

The former Wallabies captain was credited as the architect behind the inaugural Rugby World Cup.

Starting his career as a lock with Randwick and then NSW, Shehadie shifted to the front row where he was lauded as one of the world's best.

Playing in the years of long tours, he played 114 times for Australia between 1947-58, which included 30 Tests - a record at the time.

Following his retirement, Shehadie moved into the administration of the game and became president of the then Australian Rugby Union in 1980.

Shehadie drove the creation of the first Rugby World Cup played in 1987, despite initial resistance from the northern hemisphere ranks within the IRB.

After winning a vote he was appointed joint chairman on the inaugural Rugby World Cup committee.

Broadcaster Alan Jones, who was Wallabies coach under Shehadie's administration, said on his 2GB radio show: "(He was) a wonderful, wonderful Australian ... a beautiful man.

"It's going to leave a hole in the heart of many because people like Nick Shehadie don't come along very often."

All Black Sonny Bill Williams said he would miss Shehadie.

"Sir Nicholas Shehadie a good friend and former Wallaby captain.Thankyou for all the advice and kind words over the years I will miss you. My thoughts and prayers are with the family," Williams tweeted.

Former Wallaby Quade Cooper tweeted that "Shehadie was one of the greatest to play the game" while David Pocock also tweeted his condolences.

Shehadie stepped down from the board of the ARU after the 1987 tournament and was made a life member and was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Rugby Union Hall of Fame and the IRB Hall of Fame.

He was appointed a knight bachelor for his service as Lord Mayor of Sydney from 1973 to 1975 and was the husband of former NSW governor Dame Marie Bashir.

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) also acknowledged the legacy left by Shehadie to Australian sport.

"He was a visionary whose long association with the Olympic movement dated back to his time as Sydney Lord Mayor when he proposed a bid for Sydney to host the Olympic Games of 1988," said AOC President John Coates.

"While that far-sighted ambition was not realised at that time, he can rightly claim credit for transforming Rugby as part of a determined group who succeeded in establishing the first Rugby World Cup, held in Australia and New Zealand in 1987. "