Sydney (AFP) – Former Wallabies captain and administrator Sir Nicholas Shehadie, one of only two Australian rugby players to be knighted, has died aged 92.
Shehadie, who played 30 Tests between 1947 and 1958, a record at the time with three of those as captain, passed away in hospital late Sunday, Rugby Australia said.
He was regarded as one of the all-time great prop forwards and an institution in the Australian team for a decade, playing a total of 114 games for the Wallabies.
Shehadie was inducted into the International Rugby Board (IRB) Hall of Fame in 2011 in recognition of his services to the game and for being a key architect in establishing the World Cup.
His lobbying helped the IRB vote to create a World Cup in 1985 and he was appointed joint chairman on the Rugby World Cup committee.
His post-playing career was just as formidable and he served as Lord Mayor of Sydney in 1973 — a period marked by the official opening of the Sydney Opera House.
Shehadie was knighted in 1976 for his mayoral service, becoming only the second Wallaby to receive the honour after Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop.
He was also appointed a companion of the Order of Australia in 1990.
“(He was) a wonderful, wonderful Australian … a beautiful man,” former Wallabies coach and radio broadcaster Alan Jones said.
“It’s going to leave a hole in the heart of many because people like Nick Shehadie don’t come along very often.”
Shehadie, husband of former New South Wales state governor Dame Marie Bashir, served as president of Rugby Australia from 1980-86 and was also chairman of the multicultural SBS television network between 1981 and 1999.
Business leaders and politicians honoured him on social media.
“Sir Nicholas Shehadie improved everything he was involved with,” former prime minister Tony Abbott tweeted.
“He improved rugby as Wallaby captain, improved our city (Sydney) as Lord Mayor and even managed to improve SBS as its chairman. He radiated warmth and was perfectly at home in a boardroom or a bar.”
Sport Australia Hall of Fame chairman John Bertrand said: “Sir Nicholas was a great Australian on many levels. An inspiration to rugby union and the broader sport community. He will be dearly missed, and our thoughts are with the Shehadie family.”
He is survived by his wife, three children and six grandchildren.