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Eulogy for Nick Shiells by Phil Johns

Posted by Vietnam Swans on May 9, 2014

Many of Nicholas Shiells’ family members and friends were not able to attend his funeral this week as the service was held in Vietnam (a memorial service is expected to held at Xavier College, Melbourne, at a date to be confirmed (likely to be in the week beginning 23 May)).

For those not able to attend, this website is trying to obtain copies of the eulogies delivered by Nick’s parents, brother, girlfriend and friends.

Below is the eulogy prepared by close friend and former Vietnam Swans’ National President, Phil Johns.

The mock phone call from God

[Phil pulls his phone out of his pocket to take a call from God. He then says to the congregation...] “It’s God. He says St Peter has seen a bloke with verandah eyebrows, baggy blue shorts and a Wide Eyed Tours t shirt who has just bounced off both pearly gates on his way through. He wants to know if it’s Nicko.”

[Looking skywards, Phil yells out...] “Hey Nicko! Is it you?”

[Phil replies as Nicko with legs spread, arms folded and smiles with a nodding head...] “Yeah!”

[Phil begins addressing the congregation] So, the good news is that Nicko has dished out a “Don’t Argue” to the devil, smashed another exam – this time God’s – and has made it to heaven.

Second lot of good news is that Nicko’s still the same bloke that we knew and loved and laughed with down here.

Liberation Day

To Nick’s family, friends and staff

30 April is celebrated by the Vietnamese as Liberation Day. On Liberation Day this year, we were temporarily incarcerated in a prison of pain as the realization struck that the Spirit of Nick had begun a new and totally unexpected journey.

Today we assemble to remember, to honour, to celebrate, to grieve, to support each other and, in so doing, write the opening paragraph of the next chapter in our own respective lives.

Today, we sit here with Nick’s physical body. And a fine physical specimen he was too. In the resting position, he was immovable – to which he was oblivious. With momentum, he made the rest of us feel like pins facing a smiling bowling ball.

Powering the Body

But what powered that body is what we have all come here to honour today: his spirit, his spark, his discipline, his prodigious intellect, his big picture thinking, his inclusiveness, his insight, his compassion. And they’re the bits that we call gifts because, if we so choose, they can live on – in us all.


Here’s a snap shot of some of the things this multi faceted person was doing:

  • Established Strategic Compliance in December 2011 with the mighty Ms Minh who he described just a couple of weeks ago as “the best in the world”. Strategic has enjoyed great success and now employs 50 staff.
  • His ability to adapt and respond in a “timely manner”. Take for example when Strategic turned up to work one Monday morning and on the other side of his wall they had started driving pylons for an 8 storey building. By the following morning, he had found, secured and set up another office for his staff to walk into! I think the mighty Ms Buddy may also have had a role in that!
  • Set up a myriad of business opportunities in multiple countries with multiple partners
  • While establishing his business, he punched out a couple of Masters degrees
  • Set up an ongoing relationship with the Accounting Club at RMIT University
  • Introduced a program to support Swim Vietnam
  • Actively supported the Loreto Program with a human touch that Trish Franklin described as “scrumptious”.
  • Nick was also Saigon President of the Vietnam Swans.

The Vietnam Swans

The Swans have always been a big part of Nick’s life – on and off the field. Prior to his work commitments becoming extreme, his drive, commitment and focus were legendary. His family were regular visitors from Australia at the time of the ANZAC Friendship Match which he loved. As National President of the Vietnam Swans, I valued his advice and insights. He had a remarkable ability to remove the fog and shades of grey to strip a seemingly complex problem down to its core elements.

Nick was respected across Asia. Two days ago, the Malaysian Warriors, who played in this year’s ANZAC Friendship Match, contacted our President, Josh Lee, to say they were sending a signed club jumper as a mark of respect. It would also be a No. 10 jumper – Nick’s number.

The plaudits and stories we have been hearing this morning and over the past week do not change our understanding of Nick. They simply add richness, colour and detail.

Dealing with the pain of loss

Unquestionably, Nicko crammed a fair bit into his 30 years – but the tragedy is, it shouldn’t even have been half time. And that’s what makes it so difficult for the rest of us to come to terms with.

Nick’s early departure leaves us feeling lost and lonely. We’re in a hole. But, after the initial shock, we need to get back to start writing our next life chapter. To not do so would be to suggest that we are weaker for knowing Nick. Clearly, that is a nonsense. We’re all stronger for knowing Nick.

Just as Nick relocated his office in short time, we each need to use the strength of the Spirit of Nick to haul ourselves out of this hole and, like that 5 year old boy playing his first footy game [in Nick's first ever game, his mother describes how he ran and ran and ran], we can start running again.

The Swannies recently had a song written about the ANZAC Friendship Match, “Footy there’s nothing like it, mates just having fun. Footy there’s nothing like it, forever, forever, forever we will run.”

Nicko, may you Run In Peace.

One Response to “Eulogy for Nick Shiells by Phil Johns”

  1. said

    Well written,
    If I think about it, probably the best man I’ve known. So much love and respect for the man, I’ll always miss him and loved the times we had.
    Love you Nickos

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