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Australian Rugby mourns the loss of the legendary Sir Nicholas Shehadie

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The Australian Rugby community is in mourning today at the loss of one of its iconic figures, former Wallabies Captain Sir Nicholas Shehadie AC, OBE.

Sir Nicholas passed away peacefully in Sydney on Sunday night, surrounded by family including his wife the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir, and children Michael, Susan, and Alexandra. The legendary Wallaby and former Lord Mayor of Sydney was aged 91.


“Not only have we lost one of our great Wallaby Captains, we have lost a truly great Australian. His was an extraordinary life,” said Rugby Australia Chairman, Cameron Clyne.

“Sir Nicholas is one of the most revered figures in our game across the globe. He was a born leader, a gifted athlete, and an outstanding administrator who was instrumental in shaping the game both nationally and internationally through his various roles in Rugby.

“As joint Chairman on the inaugural Rugby World Cup committee, his leadership and drive were pivotal in establishing what is now the third largest sporting event in the world. This is a legacy that will live forever in our game.

“He was the first player to play over 100 matches for Australia, including 30 Test matches, but he was a man that transcended the game and is admired equally for his career in public life following his twelve years of international Rugby.

“Our thoughts today are with his wife the Honourable Dame Marie Bashir, former Governor of New South Wales, his three children and six grandchildren. May he rest in peace,” said Clyne.

Born in Coogee, New South Wales in 1926, Shehadie grew up in inner-city Redfern and attended Cleveland St and Crown St schools where he quickly became known for his sporting prowess.

He was soon introduced to the game of Rugby, joining the Randwick Club and made his first grade debut at the tender age of 15. Just a year later, he made his first representative appearance for New South Wales.

Six years on, he earned his Test debut becoming Wallaby number 352 when he ran out against New Zealand in Sydney on June 28, 1947. He would then go on to play 24 matches on the ensuing Wallabies tour of Britain and the big forward established himself as the team’s set-piece lynchpin.

It was on the 1953 Wallabies tour of South Africa that he first had the honour of captaining his country, leading the Australians out in eight tour matches and one Test match.

He continued to represent at the highest level from 1954 to 1958, and in 1957 made history as the first Wallaby to make a second tour of the British Isles and Europe. On that tour he would also become the first tourist to represent the Barbarians in a match against his own country.

That same year he married Professor Marie Bashir, who was Governor of New South Wales between 2001 and 2014.

Shehadie ended his playing days with 175 club matches for his beloved Randwick over 16 years, as well as winning 37 caps for his state. He represented Australia on 114 occasions and was Captain in three of his 30 Test appearances.

His career in public office began in 1962 when he stood as an alderman for the council elections of the City of Sydney. He was elected and served two terms before standing again in 1969, where he was chosen as Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney and was instrumental in the development of Martin Place.

In 1973 he was elected as Lord Mayor of Sydney and held the position for three years, where he oversaw the opening of the Sydney Opera House and officiated at visits by Queen Elizabeth II and other members of the Royal family.

Sir Nicholas was appointed Chairman of the New South Wales Rugby Union in 1979 and the following year was elected President of the Australian Rugby Union, a position he held for seven years. During that stint, he also served as tour manager for the 1981-82 Wallabies tour of Britain and Ireland.

He would go on to be the driving force behind the creation of the Rugby World Cup, a legacy that continues to grow as the tournament continues to build from strength-to-strength as one of the world’s top sporting spectacles.

Sir Nicholas retired following the 1987 Rugby World Cup and was made a life member of the ARU. His influence in the game internationally was paid the ultimate tribute when, in 2011, he was inducted into the IRB (World Rugby) Hall of Fame for his role in establishing the Rugby World Cup.

Following a decorated career in both sport and public life, Shehadie served as Chairman of the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) from 1981 to 1999.

Throughout his life he had been a member of the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) and served as a Trustee from 1978 to 2001, including 11 years as Chairman of the SCG Trust Board. During his time as Chairman he oversaw the building of the Sydney Football Stadium, where a stand is named in his honour.

Shehadie’s list of honours in the sporting sphere includes an Australian Sports Medal, as well as membership of the Australian Rugby Union Hall of Fame, Sport Australia Hall of Fame, and World Rugby Hall of Fame.

His contribution to the community and public life was paid the ultimate recognition in 1976 when he was awarded the dignity of Knight Bachelor by the British monarch. Some 25 years later, in 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal by the Australian Government to honour his contribution to Australian society and that year was also made a Knight of the Order of St John.

Sir Nicholas had also previously been awarded an OBE for service to local government in 1971 and an AC (Companion of the Order of Australia) for service to media, sport and the community, in 1990.

Michael Shehadie, Sir Nicholas Shehadie’s only son, said Rugby had been an integral part of his late father’s life.

“We are all extremely proud of Dad’s amazing contributions and achievements. He often stated Rugby gave him endless opportunities, for which he was eternally grateful,” he said.

“As the beloved life partner of our Mother, a wonderful Father and Grandfather, we will miss him terribly but are so fortunate to have had him as a part of our lives for so long.”