Nearly 1000 bid final farewell to Jock Hobbs

DAY OF SADNESS: Jock Hobbs' son Michael is comforted by his uncle, Robbie Deans.
DAY OF SADNESS: Jock Hobbs' son Michael is comforted by his uncle, Robbie Deans.

Rugby legend Jock Hobbs, described as a perfect partner, strong father and "genuine good bugger", has been farewelled by loved ones and members of the sporting, business and political world.

Nearly 1000 people said goodbye at Old St Paul's in Wellington yesterday to the former All Black and New Zealand Rugby Union chairman, who died in Wellington Hospital last week after a long battle with leukaemia. He was 52.

Son Michael Hobbs spoke of a man who pushed him and his sisters hard in their chosen sports but was always there when they needed him.

"Dad always said if you're going to go out, go out on top. He was a man of few words but what he said was worth listening to ... No matter how sick or frail dad became, his presence was always enough to bring us comfort." He thanked All Blacks captain Richie McCaw for giving Hobbs the World Cup win he had wanted so badly before he died.

McCaw said that after the World Cup win, Hobbs gave him a wink and simply said "Job done". He described Hobbs as a great administrator but also as a man who could "chew the fat" with the team and who just fitted in.

"From the team's point of view we absolutely loved the time we had with him. He would come down and, win or lose ... he would always have a smile on his face. Just the presence of the man really, just having him there was something special.

"I think we'd all agree we have lost a mate, just a general good bugger."

The funeral in Thorndon was bookended with photo slideshows and music chosen by the Hobbs family. Pictures of a younger, healthier Hobbs playing with his children at home, on the rugby pitch and hugging the Rugby World Cup trophy reminded those at the service of the success he had in various aspects of his life.

He was an All Blacks captain, but his greatest contribution to the game is generally acknowledged to have been off the field, helping stop the All Blacks becoming a rebel professional team in the mid-1990s and securing the country's right to host last year's Rugby World Cup.

Prime Minister John Key, Cabinet minister Gerry Brownlee and prominent All Blacks past and present attended the service, but the day was focused around the Hobbs family. He is survived by wife Nicky and children Michael, Emily, Penny and Isabelle.

Peter Hobbs spoke of his brother's love for his wife, while Michael promised to look after his mother in his father's absence.

Wellington businessman Rob Morrison described Hobbs and wife Nicky's perfect partnership, saying Hobbs' life would have been an organisational nightmare without her, although their relationship went much deeper than that.

He spoke affectionately about his friend's quick temper, but also about his softer side and his love of bear hugs and poorly timed tackles on a night out. He would often wake up with bruises because of Hobbs' antics.

Mr Morrison said he disagreed with anyone who said Hobbs had "lost" his battle with cancer.

"To die is not to be a loser but is simply the final chapter of a life. As he leaves this field today we know he gave it everything. He was a winner."

Hobbs' casket was carried out of the church by pallbearers including NZRU chief executive Steve Tew and former All Black Robbie Deans, who is Hobbs' brother-in-law.