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SCG farewells a big man in a big hat
By Doug Conway, AAP Senior Correspondent
12:58 AEST Thu Jan 3 2013

The man under the broad-brimmed sun hat was gone, but his spirit lived on.

Tony Greig's trademark hat sat on top of the stumps at the SCG members' end before the start of play in the final Test between Australia and Sri Lanka.

It was a telling vignette of the affection Australians held for a man who, in his day, did everything in his power to beat the men wearing baggy green caps.

But Australians came to adopt the South African-born former England captain, who died last Saturday aged 66, just as he adopted them after deciding to call Australia home.

They respected his combative nature on the field, and enjoyed his joviality off it, from his Test days through to his central role in the Australian-inspired rebellion known as World Series Cricket, and later as a TV commentator.

Australian captain Michael Clarke led the tributes by wearing Greig's signature neckerchief - handed to him by Grieg's son Tom before the start of play - as he led the Australians onto the field.

"He was an inspiration to cricket," said Clarke.

"The game owes Greigy a hell of a lot. If not for the great Kerry Packer and Tony Greig, the game wouldn't be where it is today."

Australia's players wore black arm bands and the crowd observed a minute's silence before the start of play.

Greig's fellow commentators in the Channel Nine box paid their own handsome tributes, led by doyen Richie Benaud.

"He was so strong in every way, a man I always liked to have on my side," said Benaud.

Recalling Greig's part as a key recruiter for Packer's WSC, Benaud said Greig felt very strongly about a fair day's pay for a fair day's work in days when cricketers were paid "peanuts" and treated with little respect.

Benaud said it was a day of sadness but "we will get on with it as he would have wished. And at the end of the day we will raise a glass to our gifted colleague and friend forever."

Bill Lawry missed his "great friend" and jousting partner.

Mark Taylor hailed Greig for his willingness to put his reputation on the line for the good of the game, as he did in pioneering the use of crash helmets.

Ian Healy praised Greig's industrious research, saying he was the first person he knew to have a laptop with WiFi by his bedside.

Ian Chappell recalled how Greig's fairness spared him in a difficult situation when the two captains were asked whether the third Test at Headingley in 1975 should proceed after the pitch was sabotaged.

Greig said no, despite believing England held the advantage.

"He was combative but he was not about to take advantage of you," said Chappell.

Greig's family and the Channel 9 commentary team were invited by opposing captains Clarke and Mahela Jayawardene to join the players and officials on the SCG before play.

His wife Vivian was overcome by the outpouring of emotion, saying on Test eve: "I just wish he could have seen it."

"I'm so grateful, truly grateful."

The SCG Trust urged fans to wear Greig-style sun hats, and thousands did, including his sons Mark and Tom.

They embraced before taking their father's hat from the stumps and heading off into a life without him.

It's a big hat to fill.