Friends and former colleagues are paying tribute to the veteran broadcaster Phillip Leishman, who died overnight.
Leishman, 61, died surrounded by his family after battling an aggressive form of cancer.
Long-time sports broadcaster Keith Quinn said when he heard the news of Leishman's death, his first thought was one of relief, "because I didn't want to see him dragged through this awful situation''.
"Me and a group of friends just last week were planning on visiting him, but we were told that it was just down to family and that it was a vigil - and we understood," he said.
"But then it's just terribly sad to lose such a good friend and a funny man. Sixty one is far to early these days and he should have had many more years to enjoy watching his sport."
Quinn said he was speaking to Leishman's younger brother Mark last night, just hours before Phillip died.
"He said the family were just very aware of the situation, and they were coping well and as best they could."
Quinn said Leishman liked to have a laugh and "give a good ribbing".
He recalled the 1976 Olympics, where a number of African nations boycotted over New Zealand's attendance at the games at the height of apartheid protests.
Technical issues meant no sound at the opening ceremony was being broadcast back to New Zealand.
"I always thought that [the boycott] was why sound didn't get back to New Zealand," Quinn said.
He was told by a producer "you must dictate all your research down the phone to Phillip Leishman and he's going to put it on air."
"So I did, the show must go on... and I tell you, he rode that story for a while. I was furious, but I never told Phillip, and he thought it was a great laugh."
Quinn said they had also taken a tour of Scotland together.
"Two men together in a rental car in Scotland, it sounds a bit dodgy but we had great fun."
Fans, colleagues and friends had also taken to Twitter to express their sadness at news of Leishman's death.
Three News sports presenter Hamish McKay called him "a gentleman and an inspiration".
"Saturday mornings in the 70's with Glyn Tucker are a treasured memory."
TV presenter and model agency founder Sara Tetro said 61 was too young. "Thoughts to his family and all out there going through the same nightmare."
Prime Minister John Key gave his condolences to Leishman's family.
He knew the broadcaster "pretty well" and their children went to school together in Auckland.
"I had the opportunity to get to know him over the course of the time I've been back in New Zealand, he's got a young family... and obviously a very, very sad day for the Leishman's."
A 'NATURAL BROADCASTER'
Leishman was operated on for a a brain tumour in March 2012. The operation was a success but the cancer recently returned.
Once host of Wheel of Fortune, but most recently seen appearing on popular television production the HSBC Golf Club, he first appeared on Dunedin regional station DNTV2 in the 1970s.
From there he moved to the nightly network bulletin as a sports news presenter, covering Olympic and Commonwealth Games between 1976 and 1998.
Leishman worked on Turf Talk with Glynn Tucker in the mid to late 1970s, and hosted 1250 episodes of quiz show Wheel of Fortune alongside Lana Coc-Kroft in the early and mid 1990s.
In 1997 he joined up with journalist Phil Smith to form company Uplink, now Sportinc, to produce the golf programme which he has described as probably his most satisfying role.
In 2011 he was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to broadcasting and the community.
Leishman said in an interview late last year that he wanted to be remembered as a "natural broadcaster" who loved his job.
ScreenTalk Interview with Phillip Leishman
- © Fairfax NZ News
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