Top 15 of 2017: Rugby world mourns greats

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

It's been a big year in rugby on many different fronts, so is taking a look back at the 15 biggest storylines of the year, based on the stories you read and reacted to.

#3: Rugby world mourns greats

Rugby farewelled some of its most significant names in 2017, a year with pain and tragedy at either end of it.

The shock passing of lock Dan Vickerman at just 37, was the start of a grim year, the former Waratahs and Brumbies second-rower's death a wake-up call for many in the community.

Vickerman was farewelled at the Sydney University fields where he made his early mark, mourned by many giants of the rugby world.

New Zealand rugby had its own February grief, with Sione Lauaki dying during the Brisbane Tens, a loss felt keenly by long-time friend Liam Messam, who opted against going home when he heard the news, playing on to win the inaugural Tens title.

Joost van der Westhuizen passed away in February. Photo: AFPSouth Africa was not spared either, with former captain Joost van der Westhuizen succumbing to motor neurone disease.

On a local level, the Warringah Rats' story has been one that spread throughout the rugby community, after Lachlan Ward died during a fifth-grade rugby match, with his brother Sam's inspirational return to the field, winning the Shute Shield title with the Rats, one of the most moving moments of 2017.

Then came December, where two of Australia's greatest were lost within a week, just days before Christmas.

Queensland legend Stan Pilecki, one of rugby's greatest characters, passed after a battle with illness.

Finally, went legendary halfback Ken Catchpole, widely considered Australia's greatest ever scrumhalf, dying after a long bout of illness.

Catchpole's funeral was held on Friday, and his will be a loss felt across Australia, at the end of a year that was marked by tragedy.