Alex Higgins, a two-time world snooker champion whose cavalier style helped to popularise the game in its 1970s-80s heyday, died in his Belfast home on Saturday after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 61.
Higgins, the Northern Irishman nicknamed Hurricane for his playing style, won the 1972 world championship at his first attempt, beating John Spencer 37-32 in the final to become the youngest winner of the title. He'd lose two more finals in 1976 and 1980 before regaining the crown in 1982 with an 18-15 win over Ray Reardon.
Despite being diagnosed with throat cancer 10 years ago, he was playing professionally as recently as 2007.
And already the tributes are flowing:
Six-time world champion Steve Davis said Higgins was one of two or three players he would label a genius with a cue.
"To people in the game he was a constant source of argument, he was a rebel. But to the wider public he was a breath of fresh air that drew them in to the game," Davis said.
"He was an inspiration to my generation to take the game up. I do not think his contribution to snooker can be underestimated."
Barry Hearn, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association, called Higgins "the original people's champion."
Our interest in snooker was piqued in the old Pot Black days of the early 1970's; well before the advent of colour TV in New Zealand. Higgins was one of the stars of those days, and the polar opposite of the likes of Joe and Fred Davis and Ray Reardon. He played the game at break-neck speed, unlike his contemporaries.
And he was twice world champion, albeit that there was a long time between drinks. Those who knew of Higgins will understand the use of that phrase! So here, as our tribute, is the closing minutes of his most famous moment in snooker - RIP Alex "Hurricane" Higgins ...