“It’s a great show, we’ve had some wonderful times and I’ve had some wonderful times,” Gilbert said, sending love to his “on-air family” including outgoing stars Karl Stefanovic, Sylvia Jeffreys, Peter Stefanovic and Richard Wilkins, as well as former host Lisa Wilkinson.
He also thanked his former Nine bosses David Gyngell, Steve Crawley and Mark Calvert for backing his stint on the show.
“All you guys believed that The Leb could do something and I appreciate it,” he joked, referencing his ethnic background.
The address turned emotional when Gilbert recalled the support of his late mum Luerice, who passed away in September.
“We saw my mum in that vision… It’s quite appropriate that I’m leaving the Today show now, ’cause she was my number one fan,” he said.
“She used to say, ‘You look fantastic’. I could’ve stuffed something up, looked bad, but she’d say, ‘You look so handsome, you were so good’ … She’s always going to be the angel on my shoulder.”
Viewers online voiced their support for the popular presenter, sending the highlight reel viral.
“Letting Tim go is a huge error!” one commenter on Twitter remarked.
“Worst decision ever. He is one of the good ones,” another Facebook user added.
Considering the timing of Nine’s sudden Today show refresh, Gilbert was the only outgoing presenter given the courtesy of farewelling viewers on-air.
Earlier in the episode, while reporting on the Oscars’ decision to go host-free, Steve Jacobs had awkwardly jabbed at Nine’s savage shake-up.
“Seems like hosts are going the same way as the dinosaurs – nobody needs them,” he quipped, sparking chuckles from the on-air team.
Gilbert’s departure essentially closes a troubled year for Today, plagued by poor ratings and Stefanovic’s tabloid exploits, ahead of Monday’s new-look debut hosted by Georgie Gardner and Deb Knight and newcomers Tom Steinfort and Brooke Boney.
Robert Moran is an entertainment reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age