Snooker icon Dene O’Kane dies after tragic accident at New Zealand home

Dene O’Kane has passed away at the tragically young age of 61 (Picture: Getty Images)

Dene O’Kane, New Zealand’s greatest snooker player, has died aged 61 after an accident at his home in Waiheke.

The New Zealand Herald reports that O’Kane passed away in hospital on Tuesday after falling at his home earlier in the week.

The popular figure was the standard-bearer for New Zealand snooker during an immensely competitive time in snooker history, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Championship in 1987 and 1992.

He climbed a high as 18 in the world rankings and reached one ranking final over his career, narrowly losing 9-8 to Mike Hallett at the 1989 Hong Kong Open.

O’Kane went on to become a real estate agent in his retirement from the game, but was also chairman of cue sports club Massé, where Bernie Endres is secretary,

Endres said of O’Kane: ‘He was the greatest New Zealander to pick up a cue. Just a massive presence in cue sports.

‘I remember talking to Dennis Taylor and he was going on about how much he admired Dene. He talked of how difficult it was for those guys in the UK to break through to the pro circuit let alone for someone from a country at the bottom of the planet. Someone who had left home at his age, with no money to survive and to make it on the pro-circuit.’

Dene O'Kane

O’Kane was chairman of the Massé club (Picture: youtube.com/@massenewzealand)

Former world number three Neal Foulds, who competed with O’Kane at the height of their powers, posted on social media: ‘I’m waking up to the awfully sad news of the passing of Dene O’Kane. One of the good guys.

‘When he came over from NZ in 1980 for Junior Pot Black he was immediately different from the rest of us in a good way. Always had a touch of class about him.
Rest in peace Deno.’

O’Kane played on the Seniors tour in recent years (Picture: Sky Sports)

Current professional Alfie Burden wrote: ‘To say I’m devastated to see the news this morning that one of my great friends within snooker Dene O’Kane has passed away in an understatement.

‘Dene O was an unbelievable guy a unique character somebody I will never forget, I spent hours and hours practicing with him as a young player he didn’t need to give me his time he was a top 16/ top 32 player but he did and I learned an awful lot off him.

‘Away from snooker he was such great company a real one off we had many great times together alongside my father at numerous tournaments where we shared meals and good times.

‘Snooker has lost a great guy and a great competitor. I nicknamed Dene ‘O ‘ The Great One’. RIP The Great One.’

O’Kane famously used his position as a star of the baize to make a moral point, protesting France carrying out nuclear testing in the Pacific in 1995.

He wore an anti-nuclear sticker on his waistcoat at the Thailand Classic in Bangkok, which read: ‘Non … stop the French tests.’

He explained: ‘It was like an independent protest, with no political affiliation. I felt that if they (the French) wanted to test those devices, why didn’t they do it in Bordeaux? I enjoyed doing that, and it was effective as well.

“I just thought it was appropriate for that point in time, with the dreadful things they were doing.’


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