Auckland journalist Peter Jessup, who covered the Vodafone Warriors for many years, passed away on Thursday (December 13), aged 60.
After filling news roles with the Auckland Star and the New Zealand Herald, Jessup switched to sport at the Herald where his workload would be principally centred on the Vodafone Warriors and the rugby league code generally.
There was a distinctive fan’s quality to many of his missives which ebbed and flowed in tone as he rode the club’s emotional rollercoaster.
That, in turn, led to some fairly colourful encounters, not least at one media session when a member of the football staff told him in reasonably blunt language that he wasn’t particularly welcome.
As much as Jessup enjoyed rugby league, though, it was his passion for fishing which shone through.
It wasn’t unusual – indeed it was almost commonplace – for him to arrive at Vodafone Warriors media sessions looking like he’d just been fishing (which he invariably had). He’d be kitted out in well-worn Stubbies, Hawaiian shirt or something similar, jandals and sunglasses pushed back on his head. He wrote extensively on fishing, too, including a book titled Fishermen’s Tales.
His journalism career wasn’t short on eventful moments, nor was his life away from the vocation. Witness a close encounter he and a friend had with a gun-toting robber in a West Auckland shopping centre as recently as last year.
“I've had guns pointed at me before so I didn't really panic too much. I was more thinking about how we could get the bastard," a matter-of-fact Jessup told a reporter. He and his mate gave chase before losing the robber leaving the police to take over.
While Jessup finished up with the Herald, his love of rugby league remained. He stopped for a chat at the Glenora Rugby League Club when the Vodafone Warriors were there to support one of the Luke Tipene Celebration Day events in early 2016.
Another encounter was unexpected when Jessup called out from a tram he was driving in Halsey Street a few years back.
There’s no question he lived hard. His friends attest to that, former New Zealand Herald colleague Glenn Jeffrey posting this tribute on Facebook on Friday: “Yesterday Peter Jessup passed away. He was a fearless journalist and father to four wonderful kids. We met when he was chief reporter on the Auckland Star and then worked together when he was police reporter, features editor and sports editor on the New Zealand Herald. He covered the big stories in New Zealand's history, and won the big awards, then wrote about his beloved Vodafone Warriors. Pete was a passionate, skilled fisherman and we spent untold hours at sea together. He was a good man to have next to you in a tight spot, and we had a few. He collapsed suddenly and died after a hard day’s work, with a cold VB in his hand. Peter was the most loyal, funny, courageous, forthright, loving, strong and moral man I have ever known. He was my best friend. Rest in peace Peter.”
The colourful side of his life masked the deep sadness that engulfed Jessup, wife Patrice and their family following the death of their son and brother Shaun in 2007. He was only 15 when he died with an inoperable brain tumour.
Shaun was farewelled at the Glenora Rugby League Club. Peter’s funeral will be held at the same venue at 11.00am on Wednesday (December 19).
The Vodafone Warriors pass on their deepest sympathies to the Jessup family.