Wallabies great Dan Vickerman farewelled in Sydney at emotional memorial

Former Wallaby Daniel Joseph Vickerman was remembered at a public memorial in Sydney on Wednesday by family, friends and hundreds of others in the rugby community as a "champion man" and a "quiet guy with refreshing humility".

On the turf of Sydney University Oval No.1, where Vickerman ran out for the Students between 2001 and 2011, a huge crowd of mourners came to remember the life of the former Waratahs and Wallabies second-rower who died on February 18, aged 37. 

Stories were told by Vickerman's best man Richard Bell, former teammates Chris Malone and David Lyons, and close family friend David Marr, in front of a packed grandstand sprinkled with former Wallabies. 

Vickerman's wife, Sarah, was flanked by the couple's two young sons, Joseph and Xavier, who wore Waratahs jerseys to the ceremony. 

Those who spoke all described the positive influence Sarah had on her husband's life before his death, which sent shockwaves through the rugby world. 

"Dan, wherever you are, and I know you can hear me, we want you to know that you'll always be our teammate, friend, son, father and close mate," said Bell. "We all love you and will always remember you." 

Dozens of former Wallabies were present including Phil Waugh, Benn​Robinson, George Gregan, Stirling Mortlock, Jeremy Paul, Simon Poidevin, Rod Kafer and Phil Kearns, plus incumbent Australian coach Michael Cheika. 

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham and captain Sam Carter made the trip from Canberra, while four representatives from Cambridge University, where Vickerman played during his studies, travelled from Britain to pay their respects. 

Current Sydney University players stood to the left of proceedings, wearing their blue and gold club jerseys, before singing the club's song when the event concluded. 

There were plenty of tears throughout the service, particularly when the song Hallelujah was played. 

Vickerman's close family attended a private funeral on Wednesday morning before making their way to the public ceremony. 

Malone, who did not travel to South Africa in his role as assistant coach with the Waratahs, shared a number of humorous stories about "Big Vicks", the guy who lived across the hall from him at St John's College. 

"He had a sparkle in his eye at the adventure ahead of us and we began what was the most special and fun time of our lives," Malone said. "Daniel spilt a lot of blood right beneath our feet. He spilled a fair few double bourbon and cokes up there in the grandstand bar as well." 

But it was a story about a Sydney University training session six years ago that brought a smile to the faces of those in attendance. 

"During an opposed training session, someone had slapped Vicks on the back and he said, 'The next person to slap me on the back is going to get it'," Malone said. 

"Phil Waugh, equally mischievous and sensing an opportunity … reached over and slapped Dan on the back. The big yarpie exploded, stood straight up and poor old Jeremy Tilse wore two clean shots on the beak before he even knew what was happening. He never could take a pat on the back." 

Malone added: "He was such a colossal man. His character was so true, his values so strong, his behaviour so authentic. The only judgement was that he was an outstanding man." 

Another former teammate in Lyons, could not speak highly enough of Vickerman, who played in 63 Tests for his country, featuring three World Cups. 

"He was a quiet guy with refreshing humility," Lyons said. "We all shared that special bond that will never be broken.

"I quickly realised that in that six-foot-nine body there was a 12-foot heart." 

In a statement, read by Lyons, Waugh said: "Off the field Vicks was like a brother. Always thoughtful and a heart as big as anyone I've known. An absolute gentleman of the highest integrity. Rest easy my friend." 

The recurring point made by those who spoke was that Vickerman would do anything to help anyone, his generosity unmatched. 

Marr told the story of the night he and his wife asked the 204-centimetre giant to be a bodyguard at their son's birthday party. 

"We called Dan to see if he wouldn't mind sitting on the front balcony as people arrived," Marr said. "He was there straight away and it's fair to say we had no issues. He was a mate who would do anything, no matter whether it is big or small."


Photo: Ryan Pierse (A guard of honour is formed by the Sydney University rugby club as Sarah Vickerman, the widow of Dan Vickerman, leaves his memorial service).

Photo Below: NZPA (Wallaby Daniel Vickerman against the All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup in 2006).