Embattled broadcaster Tony Veitch is returning to television, seven months after quitting TVNZ amid allegations he assaulted his former partner.
Veitch, 34, who faces seven charges of assault, has been hired as a panellist by Murray Deaker for his Sky TV show Deaker on Sport. His first appearance screens live this Wednesday, and comes as Veitch is also nominated as a finalist for best sports presenter in TV Guide's annual awards.
Veitch's chance to resurrect his broadcasting career follows a personal approach from Deaker, who has overcome his own personal demons. Deaker said Veitch deserved a chance.
"He is a talented broadcaster, he loves sport and he should be given the opportunity to work. He hasn't had any work for six months and the case is many months away from being heard so, in my opinion, it's time he got back on the horse again.
"I just want Tony to be himself. I want him to be as near to him as possible."
Veitch said sport remained a "massive part of my life".
"I miss covering it and broadcasting on it immensely. I am also totally committed to returning to the career I love, and I am grateful to Sky and Murray for giving me the chance."
Veitch's trial is not expected to be heard until at least the end of 2010, a delay that his lawyer has described as a disgrace. Friends and family have been worried the uncertainty over his future has caused serious health concerns and prevented potential employment opportunities.
Deaker said Veitch had thought carefully about his offer. "He didn't rush in and immediately say yes. But he has discussed it with a number of people and come back."
Veitch would be paid. "If it works, I am sure he will be back - we have a lot of panel shows."
Deaker has full editorial control over his show - he personally raises financial support to put it to air - and said Sky chief executive John Fellet was "totally happy" about Veitch's role.
Deaker said he "couldn't care less" about anyone who was critical of his hiring Veitch.
"I have thought this through and I don't care. I firmly believe people should be given a right to use their skill and to work. I try and look at life by putting myself in other people's shoes and of all the people who have worked in sport there are only a handful of people who have the same passion that I have and Tony happens to be one of them.
"I have been broadcasting for 20 years and I always know there will be a group of people who hate you, they won't like whatever you do. I think what I am trying to do here is answer my conscience and put myself in his position and support him. I was given a chance after my breakdown and I want to give Tony a chance."
Deaker, who has battled depression and alcoholism, said his employers had been good to him after that "big breakdown" in 2005.
"I was only off air for three weeks then I came back, so I was given a chance and I grabbed it.
"If I had stopped working and wasn't allowed to work or go anywhere else to work I don't know how I would survive. I hope this might open some doors for him."
Deaker expected Veitch would be "nervous" and "perhaps uptight" in the first show. "But here's the point ... he has always been extremely passionate and energetic about his work and all I want to see is for that to come out on screen."
Deaker and Veitch met last Wednesday to discuss this week's show, with Veitch offering ideas and insights into the proposed topics, including the Black Caps' performances.
Veitch has been named, alongside his former TVNZ colleagues Geoff Bryan and Andrew Saville, as a finalist for best sports presenter in the TV Guide awards.
Veitch said he and his wife Zoe had received "incredible support" from the public and sporting community in the past months. "I look forward to some good old-fashioned banter with Deaks."
The Tony Veitch saga:
July 8, 2008: It is reported that Tony Veitch allegedly assaulted ex-partner Kristin Dunne-Powell and paid her more than $100,000 - later revealed to be more than $150,000. He is suspended from TVNZ and Radio Sport.
July 10, 2008: Veitch admits he "broke, and lashed out in anger - something I will regret until the end of my days".
July 17, 2008: Dunne-Powell lays a formal complaint with police. Veitch resigns from TVNZ and Radio Sport.
August 18, 2008: Seven charges of assault are laid against Veitch. He vows to fight his innocence.
September 5, 2008: Veitch admitted to hospital after he is found in his car in a remote Northland location.