Snooker legend dies after tragic accident at his home in New Zealand | Other | Sport

Snooker icon Dene O’Kane has died at the age of 61 following a tragic accident at his New Zealand home. The sportsman, who had been hailed as the ‚greatest New Zealander to pick up a cue‘, died at Auckland Hospital on Tuesday after suffering a fall at his home on Waiheke Island, according to the NZ Herald.

O’Kane became a household name after breaking into the world’s top 20 in the 1980s and twice reached the quarter-finals of the World Snooker Championship. He turned professional in 1984 after becoming the champion of New Zealand at just 17 years of age and won a hatful of trophies both at home and abroad.

He scooped 10 titles in New Zealand, two Australian titles and two Oceania Championships to earn around £415,000 in prize money before retiring in 2001. O’Kane went on to win three World Masters Championships in 2004, 2005 and 2008.

His friend Bernie Endres, who runs Masse Cue Sports, told Stuff: „He was the greatest New Zealander to pick up a cue. Just a massive presence in cue sports.

„It’s going to leave a massive hole, not just for us but cue sports in New Zealand. I don’t think he will ever be replaced, certainly on the snooker scene.

„It’s just so hard to break into that sport. It was mind-boggling Dene doing it from the other side of the world away from his family, no money, and playing some people in clubs to make money to survive. To stick at it and break onto the pro tour was just huge.

„When you mention the name Dene O’Kane most people would know him. He was such a big name back then. He’s always raised the profile of cue sports and given it credibility. He continued to help out with junior programmes and always gave his time freely when we’ve asked him.“

O’Kane began working in real estate in 2007, while he also had a stint as chair of Masse Cue Sports and remained a hugely respected figure within snooker. In 2016, he was invited to the Crucible for an exhibition match alongside the likes of Stephen Hendry, Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor.

He opened up on the pressures of snooker in an interview with Stuff two years ago, saying: „You go through a lot internally, mentally and emotionally, but you just have to overcome those feelings and thoughts. It’s almost like there’s a wall of pressure and either you break through it and play well or you succumb to it.“

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