Ex-New Zealand Rugby Union Chairman Jock Hobbs Dies at 52

Former New Zealand Rugby Union Chairman and All Blacks captain Jock Hobbs died today, six years after being diagnosed with leukemia. He was 52.

Hobbs, who played 21 Tests for the All Blacks as a flanker before a career as an administrator, died at Wellington Hospital, his family said in a statement released by the NZRU.

“New Zealand has lost an inspirational leader with an incredible passion for the game of rugby and the part it plays in our lives,” NZRU Chairman Mike Eagle said in a statement.

Hobbs played for the All Blacks 39 times, making his debut in 1983 and captaining the team on 16 occasions, according to the NZRU. Recurring concussion ended his career in 1986, the year before the inaugural Rugby World Cup.

He turned to coaching and administration, and was elected to the NZRU council in 1995, although he wasn’t included when a smaller board was established in 1996. While a member of the council, Hobbs helped ensure New Zealand’s top players stayed loyal to the governing body amid rival offers as the sport went professional.

Hobbs was re-elected to the board in 2002 as chairman, where he remained until his health forced him to step down in 2010. He led New Zealand’s presentation team to Dublin in 2005 during the successful bid to host the 2011 Rugby World Cup and became chairman of the tournament’s organizing body. He stepped down from both roles in 2010, during which he underwent six months of chemotherapy.

‘Finest Hour’

“Jock was the man who convinced Dublin that New Zealand should host last year’s Rugby World Cup,” New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said in an e-mailed statement. “This was possibly his finest hour. Winning the trophy was certainly one of New Zealand’s finest hours.”

Michael James Bowie Hobbs was born in Christchurch on Feb. 15, 1960.

He was also was a former chief executive and director of Strategic Finance Ltd., a non-bank lender to property developers and other small businesses, which was placed in receivership in March 2010 after the value of its loan book slumped and it was unable to meet payments to debenture holders and depositors.

Hobbs is survived by his wife, Nicky, a sister of former All Blacks full-back and Australia coach Robbie Deans, and children Emily, Michael, Penny and Isabelle.

To contact the reporters on this story: Tracy Withers in Wellington at twithers@bloomberg.net; Dan Baynes in Sydney at dbaynes@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christopher Elser at celser@bloomberg.net

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