“This is what a legacy looks like.”
As former Wallabies lock Dan Vickerman was farewelled on Wednesday, it was what he left behind that struck most, in an emotional service at Sydney Uni Oval 1 on Wednesday.
It was a space where ‘Big Vicks’ gained so many friends who had gathered to say goodbye and one of his oldest friends and best man at his wedding, Richard Bell, pointed to the crowd as testament to Vickerman’s wide-reaching impact.
A father, a husband, a friend, a teammate and just last December a ring-in bouncer at a family friend’s party, Vickerman was remembered by a crowd of close to 1000, among them George Gregan, Stephen Larkham and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika.
The yellow and blue of Sydney Uni, teal jackets of Cambridge University, the blue of the Waratahs, the Brumbies and the Wallabies green and gold all adorned the podium, recognising his immense rugby contribution.
Four of his friends spoke and the thread of Vickerman’s generosity ran throughout, as each shared their memories of ‘a ‘six-foot nine man with a 12-foot heart’, as former teammate David Lyons described him.
"He was an absolute colossus," former Sydney Uni teammate and current Waratahs assistant Chris Malone said.
“His character was so true, his values so strong, his behaviour so authentic. The only judgement (of him) was that he was an outstanding man,”- Chris Malone
"Most of you would not know how generous he was, how he would dedicate his precious time to helping his friends.
“Vicks, you always saw through eyes of truth. I wish you knew just how many lives you touched just by being who you were.”
In his academic and sporting careers, Vickerman was dedicated beyond comparison, Lyons said.
“Sarah would stay at Camp Lyons, as we called it for weeks at a time as Daniel sheltered in the library, studying at least 20 hours as day, just living on coffee and cigarettes,” he said.
Vickerman knew he wanted to be a Test rugby player from a young age and told his teenage friends so in Cape Town, though it wasn’t a Wallabies jersey he coveted.
Bell recalled a Currie Cup match where he declared he would become a Western Province representative and then a Springbok.
“I suppose he had to settle for the next best thing - being a Wallaby,” Ball said.
The hardness of Vickerman on the field belied his gentleness off it, most oft seen through his devotion to wife, Sarah and two sons, Joseph and Xavier.
“I was delighted when he told me about Sarah - this beautiful, fun, champion of a girl from Moree that was to spend the rest of his life with him,” Malone recalled.
“We lived across the corridor from one another in college and all of a sudden he started having this nice young girl come to visit.
“He was smitten and that was never to change. I figured out after a while that he needed more than me and his mates to look after him and ‘Sar’ you’ve done an amazing job ever since.”
Close friend David Marr spoke of Vickerman’s patience when it came to being a father and his devotion to his two sons.
“I still remember seeing this huge guy hard as nails, making these little tiny baby noises to this newborn,” he said.
“Dan was completely gone from the moment he met little Joseph."
Joseph and Xavier are barely old enough to comprehend the loss they’re suffering but the two young boys, both wearing Waratahs jerseys and heading straight to the rugby oval after the service, will never be lacking in love and support.
“I know his proudest moments were the births of young Joseph and Xavier. He was an amazing dad with a patience I envy. Boys, your dad is an amazing man, who would do anything for you,” Lyons said.
“As time goes by, you’ll realise how lucky you are to call big Vicks ‘Dad’ and myself and many people here look forward to sharing a number of stories about the big man.”
Lyons read tributes from a horde of internationals, but perhaps most poignant was a message from former Wallabies captain Nathan Sharpe.
“Not many people got to see the love that was in Vicks’ heart,” he said.
“People saw him as a warrior on the field but few knew how desperately he refused to let anyone down on his side.
“He pushed himself hard but not to succeed for himself but to contribute to his family, his team and his mates.
“If someone wasn’t pulling their weight, he’d let us know.
“He was, however, harder on himself, so hard sometimes it was unfair.
“When I reflect, he always left me a happier person. It make it hard to think I won’t ever get to see his smiling face again.”
And as the bars of ‘World of Union’ rang out to conclude the service and Sydney Uni’s current players stood in a guard of honour, no one would have been in any doubt that Vickerman had lived out these values in every aspect of his life.
A fund has been established to support Sarah, Joseph and Xavier. To donate, click here.