Newsreader breaks down at cricket legend’s death
Sky Sports newsreader Vicky Gomersall has broken down with emotion while reading out a message from the family of dead cricket legend Bob Willis on Thursday morning (AEDT).
The much-loved fast-bowling great played 90 Tests for England and has been a popular figure in broadcasting since his retirement in 1984.
It is understood the 70-year-old, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago, had begun to deteriorate in health over the last two months, with a recent scan revealing the cancer had advanced.
His family released a statement following his death, announcing to the world that they have been left "heartbroken" by his passing.
English news presenter Gomersall was reading out the statement on Sky Sports when she became overcome with emotion and needed a long pause to try and regain her composure.
Willis was a veteran cricket commentator on Sky Sports and became an iconic figure of the network's cricket coverage.
After taking some deep breaths, Gomersall was still unable to finish reading out the family's statement and colleague Jim White jumped in to complete the message.
"We are heartbroken to lose our beloved Bob, who was an incredible husband, father, brother and grandfather. He made a huge impact on everybody he knew and we will miss him terribly," the Willis family said in a statement.
"Bob is survived by his wife Lauren, daughter Katie, brother David and sister Ann.
"The Willis family has asked for privacy at this time to mourn the passing of a wonderful man and requests that in lieu of flowers, donations should be made to Prostate Cancer UK."
Having enjoyed a stellar playing career, taking 325 Test wickets in 90 matches for England, Willis enjoyed an equally impressive second career as a broadcaster, providing insight, analysis and entertainment throughout over more than 25 years with Sky Sports.
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High profile English commentators and stars of the current English team have all taken to Twitter to remember and pay their respects to the memory of Willis.
England spearhead James Anderson said he was "incredibly sad" to hear the news.
Incredibly sad to hear the news about Bob Willis. He was a true great, generous in sharing his knowledge about the game and a lovely man. RIP Bob x pic.twitter.com/HYJbLlQJRZ— James Anderson (@jimmy9) December 4, 2019
Gutted to hear the news of Bob Willis passing. A lovely person with a great humour who was so proud of England cricket. Legend. 🏴🏏 pic.twitter.com/g4AQcnRK4n— Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8) December 4, 2019
NO NO NO! Such sad sad news about Bob Willis. A very funny, caring man #RIPBobWillis you will be missed— Graham Onions (@BunnyOnions) December 4, 2019
Saddened to hear of the passing of @englandcricket legend Bob Willis today. Thoughts are with his family and friends. RIP— Jos Buttler (@josbuttler) December 4, 2019
It’s sad, but Bob Willis’s funeral will be the one gig he’d love to attend. Whether he knew it or not, he did, he was a huge influence on me, and many others. #sad.— Graemefowler (@GFoxyFowler) December 4, 2019
Piers Morgan described Willis as a "true British sporting legend".
RIP Bob Willis, 70.— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) December 4, 2019
One of England's greatest ever cricketers, a fabulously acerbic commentator, and wonderfully entertaining, intelligent, uncompromising & amusing company.
Enjoyed many fun times with him.
A true British sporting legend & rare spirit. pic.twitter.com/0BTtxTnVh3
Oh no, not Bob Willis... what joy he gave, and what a marvellous man. That 8 for 43. Used to lunch with him occasionally to talk cricket, Wagner and Bob Dylan, his three great passions.— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) December 4, 2019
Saddened to hear that Bob Willis has died. One of our greatest fast bowlers. Met him on many occasions and he was always great company with a sense of humour that was as sharp as his bowling. #RIPBob— Gary Lineker (@GaryLineker) December 4, 2019
Such sad news regarding the legend Bob Willis— Darren Gough (@DGoughie) December 4, 2019
An icon of the game I love,growing up as an 11 year old watching big Bob running down the hill 8/43 at the home of cricket Headingley
I’ll miss you Bob
A glass of red will be raised tonight x🏏🙏
Just saw the news on Bob Willis and very sad indeed. Had the pleasure of working with him for @SkyCricket and off air I just loved listening to his great stories on how they played the game back in the day. RIP Great man🙏🏼#onceabearalwaysabear— Allan Donald (@AllanDonald33) December 4, 2019
Just heard about Bob !— Matthew hoggard (@Hoggy602) December 4, 2019
Thoughts go to his family.
You will be missed !! RIP
Such sad news about Bob Willis, he was a great man— Ashley Giles (@Gilo) December 4, 2019
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England cricket legends, including former captain Nasser Hussain and David Gower, have led the tributes to their former Sky Sports commentary teammate Willis.
"It is very sad and it is equally sad that the end seemed to come very quickly," Gower told Skysports.com The last time I saw Bob was a few weeks ago and he was still fighting heroically.
"He did his best to ignore what was happening to him. He was still on television up until very recently. He was still very forthright and it brings to an end, in my case, a friendship that has lasted happily for 40 years or so."\
"If you are a quick bowler of any hue, any creed, you are always going to suffer. There is something that comes with fast bowling automatically and that's called pain. Bob's knees gave him all sorts of problems over the years. Our great, mutual friend and colleague Sir Ian (Botham) has had all sorts of trouble with his back and knees and hips and stuff. It comes with the territory. To Bob's credit - what he did so well - when he was confronted with yet another obstacle, he had the strength of mind and character to overcome that."
Hussain remembered Willis' endearing character.
Great cricketer .. even better bloke RIP Bob pic.twitter.com/nq7TnbpsAg— Nasser Hussain (@nassercricket) December 4, 2019
England great Mark Butcher said Willis was a true gentleman away from the camera.
"His on-screen persona and the man that we all knew were two completely different things," he said.
"He was brilliant on the TV. In making and looking through the cricketing archive for the last 30 years, all of the big moments in the sport have got Bob's voice all over them. He called every moment exactly as it should have been.
"He was a brilliant pundit, acerbic wit and, then away from that, one of the funniest, warmest and most generous people you could ever meet. He's been incredible as far as his encouragement of the younger guys, which includes me, and he'll be hugely missed by everybody.
"He had no fear or favour. I've been sat in the studio before and he was having a direct go at me! He never meant any of that stuff personally, he just called it exactly as he saw it. There was something refreshing about that. Doing the show with him and Charles - and my heart goes out to Charles Colvile this afternoon as well - we'd sit there in the minutes before we went live and you never knew what he was going to say.
"He kept his counsel right up until the lights went on and then suddenly some great anecdote, analogy or piece of analysis would come out and you'd feel everybody just catching their breathe in the studio and gallery. He was quite brilliant. But that character on screen is not who he was off screen. I think people would be very, very surprised that he was not the miserable old sod that he could come across as on the television! He was not like that at all, in any way."