David Leggat was a quiet but enthusiastic champion of women’s sport. Not that it drove him: the veteran journalist was always even-handed in his coverage of both female and male athletes, adhering to the notion everyone has a good story to tell.
And he was a consummate storyteller.
A sportswriter for four decades, Leggat had freelanced for LockerRoom almost since it began in 2018. He was happy to write about any code, inherently knowing what made a cracking story, but he took a special interest in sports not always in the limelight – hockey, snow sports, rowing, equestrian and whitewater canoeing.
His natural passion, though, was cricket – no doubt influenced by his dad, Gordon, who played for New Zealand and was chairman of the NZ Cricket Council, when he died suddenly at 46.
Leggat travelled the globe covering sport – Black Caps and All Blacks tours, Olympic and Commonwealth Games and World Cups. He started working in the sports department of The Press in Christchurch, moved to the now defunct NZ Press Association here and in London, and then went to the New Zealand Herald. He was one of my sports editors there, but we’d met in 1994, reporting on the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada, and we were friends from then on.
Although he’d been around the traps, he had a knack of making newcomers to the press box feel welcome and included. His sense of humour and his quirks – such as having a nickname for everyone or just deferring to ‘champ’ – would set you at ease. His own nickname, from sports media the world over, was Leggo.
With notebook in hand, he had a special charm and a genuine interest that would draw the best out of the people he chatted to. He was always intrigued by what they had to say, and more often than not, had a story to share after about the interview itself. Again, a true raconteur.
Where he really made his mark on LockerRoom was with his ‘Where is she now?’ features, looking back on the careers of some of our greatest female sportswomen and where life has since taken them.
From rowing trailblazer Stephanie Foster, to our highest-ranked singles tennis player Belinda Cordwell, 1990 Commonwealth Games high jump gold medallist Tania Murray, and his final piece on the White Ferns who won the 2000 World Cup.
Those stories were the perfect fit for Leggo. His knowledge of sport was vast, he had a brilliant memory for games and faces, but he was always open to learning more about people, and sports. Though to be fair, there weren’t many he didn’t know about.
Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy was editor-in-chief at the Herald, working with Leggat as sports editor and chief sports writer. “David was the calmest, can-do professional and people loved working with him and for him.”
In April, Murphy made a point of following Leggat’s daily updates from the national rowing championships on Lake Ruataniwha in April, which he wrote for Rowing New Zealand.
“Again, like he did for so many years, he was there chronicling an Olympic sport and athletes. His stories were so good and gently revealing. It’s rare to be so experienced and knowledgeable on so many sports and still have that spark, that fascination for the challenges athletes face and what readers would love to know,” Murphy says.
An email that came into Newsroom from John Hudson after one of Leggat’s many stories summed up the gratitude he garnered for his journalism. “I am Piera Hudson’s father. Piera was the subject of your article on December 10 covering mainly her recent achievement at Killington, USA, in the women’s World Cup slalom,” he wrote.
“On behalf of all of us involved in the alpine scene we would like to say thank you for such a well-researched and written article. For those involved in the less well-covered sports in NZ, it is a welcome breath of fresh air to have a full and properly researched article written about a truly international sport that few Kiwi men and women compete and achieve at the top level in.”
Leggat was recognised for his outstanding contribution to journalism in 2017 when he was made a life member of the New Zealand Sports Journalists Association.
He was also a loving husband to Jacqui and devoted dad to his sons, James and Nicholas. He died suddenly while swimming, in Italy’s Lake Como, where he was on holiday with his family. He’ll be missed by so many who were fortunate to cross his path, and by LockerRoom readers.
Pip, pip Leggo.