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Greig given tearful SCG farewell
By Joe Barton
14:55 AEST Sun Jan 20 2013

With a tearful tribute, a lot of laughs and a smattering of broad-brimmed hats, Tony Greig was given a fitting farewell at the SCG on Sunday.

The former England cricket captain and respected commentator died on December 29 in Sydney after suffering a heart attack during a battle with lung cancer.

On Sunday, he was given a touching memorial led by his wife Vivian, who broke down during her goodbye speech.

"He could make anything sound special and make anyone feel special," Vivian told the audience of 300.

"He gave us confidence when we faltered, he gave us strength when felt drained.

"He gave us laughter when we felt like crying. But most of all he gave us love.

"It's a great privilege and honour to have been Tony's wife."

Greig was a man whose stature was not limited to his imposing frame and whose impact extended far beyond his achievements on the cricket pitch.

In the stands of the SCG, commentary doyen Richie Benaud sat side by side with Greig's old sparring partner Bill Lawry, who delivered the eulogy - and drawing large applause for his Billy Birmingham-inspired impressions of Greig and Benaud.

Highlighting the influence Greig had on a varied cross section of the international game, England champions Ian Botham and David Gower recorded messages, while letters were passed on from Indian legend Ravi Shastri and Sri Lankan hero Arjuna Ranatunga.

They all painted a picture of a genuine cricket tragic born on the eastern cape of South Africa, who became a champion England allrounder before settling in Australia.

But above all they described a man who had a deep appreciation of the game.

"Where did his allegiance lie? His allegiance lay with the sport of cricket," Vivian said.

"He loved watching attacking cricket. He loved watching the Aussies every summer.

"He loved watching Arjuna Ranatunga lead his side in the early `90s.

"He honoured any side that honoured the game."

Greig was remembered as one of the game's great innovators who spearheaded the World Series cricket movement alongside Kerry Packer and embraced technology - to much amusement on occasion.

Vivian recalled a story she felt encapsulated the bravery - and stupidity - of her husband's love of the new.

"He loved innovation," she said.

"Firstly as a player wearing a leather scrum cap, and later a crash helmet as a sensible form of protection.

"Quite early on, I asked him why he didn't wear a helmet in his career and he patiently explained that he felt it took away from the test of courage to face a fast bowler.

"Then came (Australian pace duo Dennis) Lillee and (Jeff) Thompson and he reconsidered the helmet.

"I was appalled. (I said) `You mean to tell me that it took over 100 years after someone had invented a box before you came along to think about protecting your head?.

"That told me a lot about male priorities but it also showed me Tony was pretty smart, and brave, to wear a helmet."

Lawry described Greig's ability to spend hours in front of his laptop keeping up to date with every seemingly insignificant match report from the corners of the planet - much to the amusement of his less thorough ally, Lawry.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard attended the service, lauding Greig, who died in December after battling lung cancer, as "a towering cricket figure".

Both the Australian and Sri Lankan squads were in attendance, as were current and former Australian stars Shane Watson, Brett Lee and Andy Bichel.