Dene O’Kane Passes Away

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Dene O’Kane, New Zealand’s finest ever snooker player, has died at the age of 61.

Listen to a special episode of the WPBSA Snooker Podcast celebrating Dene’s life and career:

The New Zealand Herald broke news of his death earlier today, stating that he passed away in hospital on Tuesday, after falling at his home in Waiheke Island earlier in the week.

O’Kane reached as high as 18th in the world and was a trail blazer for snooker in his country.

The Kiwi was a two-time quarter-finalist at the World Championship. In 1987, he rallied from 5-1 down against Cliff Thorburn at the Crucible, to win 10-5 in the opening round. O’Kane lost out to Jimmy White in the last eight. He again made the quarters of snooker’s biggest event in 1992, bowing out against eventual winner Stephen Hendry.

O’Kane came within a single frame of ranking event glory in 1989, when he faced Mike Hallett in the final of the Hong Kong Open. However, he was denied silverware after a 9-8 defeat to the Englishman.

He lost a deciding frame to Steve Davis on a re-spotted black when representing the Rest of the World in the 1989 World Team Cup. O’Kane scored notable match wins over Hendry and Davis in the 1990 Mercantile Classic and the 1998 Grand Prix respectively.

O’Kane went on to commentate for the BBC in the late 90s and became a real estate agent after retiring from professional snooker in 2001.

WPBSA Chairman Jason Ferguson said: “Dene was a massive character. He was interesting, full of life and full of stories. When I joined the tour, he was a player up in the rankings that I had a great amount of respect for. I was fortunate to know him for a long time and kept in touch with him in his latter years. We have always shared a joke and a chat and I’m deeply saddened.

“The sport has lost a huge personality. I want to thank him for the time he spent with us and the contribution he made. Never underestimate how hard it must have been to move from New Zealand and make it in the professional ranks. That is a testament to the character of the man.”

Former world number three Neal Foulds used to practise with O’Kane and wrote on X: “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.”

Current tour player Alfie Burden said: ‘Dene O was an unbelievable guy, a unique character somebody I will never forget. I spent hours and hours practising with him as a young player he didn’t need to give me his time, he was a top 16 player.

“Away from snooker he was such great company and 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 as ‘The Great One’.

“RIP The Great One.”