19.5.08

BEST OF THE BEST

As the professional season has now finished, here are my award winners for the campaign just gone.

Note to the winners: there are no actual awards.

PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Despite good campaigns for Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy, the winner is Ronnie O’Sullivan by virtue of winning the world and UK titles, regaining no.1 spot and making three maximum breaks. O’Sullivan also appeared in two further finals and won the Premier League.

BREAK OF THE SEASON
We saw a number of 147s, including one by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the deciding frame of his UK Championship semi-final with Mark Selby, but I can honestly say the best break I saw all season was one of just 48 by Fergal O’Brien in his Northern Ireland Trophy quarter-final against O’Sullivan.

O’Brien was 4-2 up but had reds on cushions and balls awkwardly placed as he came to the table. He crafted the break out of virtually nothing and it was a display of sheer artistry by one of the circuit’s unsung talents.

PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s supreme display in making five centuries in the five frames he won in beating Ali Carter 5-2 in the Northern Ireland Trophy. Included in it was a 147. It was awesome stuff.

MATCH OF THE SEASON
The China Open final was of superb quality and went down to a very exciting conclusion as Stephen Maguire edged Shaun Murphy 10-9 all in front of a capacity crowd who remained in their seats until gone midnight. O’Sullivan v Selby in the UK Championship semi-finals comes a close second.

ACHIEVEMENT OF THE SEASON
Just ahead of Ali Carter’s run to the Crucible final comes Mark Selby, who became the first player in 19 years to win the Wembley Masters at his first attempt. He beat three great players – Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire and Ken Doherty – in deciding frame finishes and compiled four centuries in beating Stephen Lee in the final.

It heralded his arrival in snooker’s winners’ circle and he followed it up with his capture of the Welsh Open a few weeks later.

BREAKTHROUGH OF THE SEASON
The Chinese contingent, in the shadow of Ding Junhui, came into their own with Liu Song reaching the Grand Prix quarter-finals and Liu Chuang making the Crucible at just 17.

However, Liang Wenbo really came into his own by fighting through to the World Championship quarter-finals, doing so with great humour, audacious shot selections and a little controversy. Let’s hope we see plenty more of him in the future.

INNOVATION OF THE SEASON
The Championship League is a far more significant development than most people seem to realise. It has shown how tournament promoters can bypass not only the governing body but also television broadcasters and basically just do it themselves.

Ali Carter and Joe Perry’s successful ends to the campaign are down in large part to the fact they got match fit in this new venture. I know of a (very) well known player who rang up to try and get in it only to be told he couldn’t as he was already in the Premier League and it wouldn’t be fair on the others.

QUOTE OF THE SEASON
John Higgins complaining about conditions at the Crucible: “The tournament director will put a blazer on, go in front of the BBC and probably quote section 3a or whatever from some handbook.”

Within minutes of Higgins saying this, Mike Ganley duly appeared on the BBC in his blazer. Sadly, he didn’t have a handbook with him.

LOW POINT OF THE SEASON
The round robins at the Grand Prix, and to a lesser extent at the Malta Cup, left the sport facing accusations of corruption amid talk of police investigations.

The very suggestion of this – whatever the truth – damages snooker’s reputation. Regardless of what World Snooker say, most players loathe the format. It won’t be employed at the Grand Prix next season – you read it here first.

HIGH POINT OF THE SEASON
Two high points, just over 24 hours apart, at the Crucible when first Ronnie O’Sullivan and then Ali Carter each constructed a 147 break, which brought the crowd to their feet in appreciation of the dazzling skill on show.

For all the talk and controversy and complaints and arguments, these scenes illustrated what all of us already know: that snooker is a great game and, at the very highest level, can produce moments of sporting excellence that will forever be frozen in time.

7 comments:

Snooker Bet King said...

Great summary. Can't really disagree with anything you wrote.

Overall it has been another great season, but i can't help but feel a little disappointed with the World Championship final. Being the last game of the season and the games showcase match, it's left a somewhat bitter taste in the mouth.

Can honestly say it was the worst final i've seen in a fair few years (can't even remember the last one as bad as that?). Yes Ronnie was a worthy champion, but he won basically without playing his top game (the smi was the exception). Cater did fantastically well to get to the final, but i have to feel he really let himself down.

Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

It's been a while, so I hope you don't mind if I go over old points before coming into the new ones...

1 - Sorry to hear that Hull retired through illness. Anymore news on fellow retiree Chris Small?

2 - Dott has had a terrible season, but I agree with what he said about McCulloch and, then being let off...I think we've seen far worse in the past. Was Hamilton charged by the WSA for his thoughts on the prize money for tournaments? Again, I agreed with what he said. But do we want fewer tournaments with bigger prizes, or more with less?

3 - Does John Higgins snooker company have any players in its stable and, if Michela Tabb is part of the stable, is she still allowed to referee Higgins' matches?

4 - Terribly sad to hear of the demise of James Wattana. Any idea of what he will be doing next season? Or will he get the WSA tour card? Any thoughts of retiring?

5 - I agree with Marco Fu's comments about global snooker, and more tournaments in Asia would be a good start. But the WSA must get more countries involved. Otherwise it'll end up like the Thailand syndrome a decade ago, where are those tournaments now?

6 - It is getting tougher for the older professional to get back in to the top 16 - but can be done. Unfortunately, I can't forsee another great character of the game, Tony Drago, do so. Another player who will be missed. I once had the great pleasure of sharing a flight with him once, and he regaled me with many a great snooker anecdote. Don't think he liked flying, though.

7 - Is the 'Great W-T' still appearing in I'm A Celebrity...?

8 - Any more news on the betting irrgularities with regards the Malta Cup, and any more news on the new Bahrain event that fell though?

9 - Does Lawrie Annandale still work on the circuit as a cue tip specialist? I remember him doing some remarkable re-adjustments to O'Sullivan's cue in a match?

10 - Is the wildcard system used purely when tournaments are overseas or at Wembley? Why is this as opposed to other events?

11- You did explain why tournaments have more rounds than others at the start, as this is to do with the qualifying. Why can't they start every event with the last 48 or 32 in it. Why is it always mixed up?

12 - Do you know who the player who was quoted by a national paper as being 'fed up' with the WSA?

As for the world championship...it was one of the best, if not the best one ever. What was the tally of 100s in the end? 63? So, the players didn't beat 68 in 2002, but got two 147s instead. Pure brilliance. Controversial matches, Hendry showing some form and, Williams (he won't retire now, surely?) Lee, Davis and Doherty outside the top 16. The final qualifying round from next season will begin to look the Championship football league. Its going to get so much tougher.

As for the mercurial O'Sullivan - one can't defend his post-match comments in China. But, why on earth didn't the press officer step in and stop him? If that was a press junket for a film/rock star the actor/singer would be placated immediately by the press officer, why wasn't O'Sullivan? - He started off in Sheffield very slowly, and didn't come alive until the final session against Williams. The second session against Hendry was on-par with the third session against Hendry in 2004. But to me the 1999 final session was about as good as it got as well as the middle session against Ebdon in the semi final in 1996. We all knew O'Sullivan would beat Carter, but was a tad surprise he didn't mount a comeback - like Selby last year - in the final. Also, has Carter REALLY qualified as a pilot or has he just been up in a plane with a pilot for a few lessons? As I thought he had some kind of illness?

Dave, as for your predictions, you never get it right, but this year was truly terrible.

Some final thoughts...

Your thoughts on the set-up for the press/tournament for the Welsh Open is astonishing. What is the best press room for facilities et al that you've worked in?

If O'Sullivan gets the Player of The Year at the Press Awards who will get promising or best newcomer?

Any more news on the Grand Prix? By all means axe the format but not the tournament. Its part of the Grand Slam Four on the BBC.

Well done Joe Perry for getting the pneutimate card in the Championship for the Premier League. I do feel, although Matchroom did a fantastic job on this and the website idea, making seats available next time may help their cause more.

As for the 2008/09 season, seeing clashes at the start of the season is poor. I thought the NI Trophy in November worked, but by going back to the summer, the attendances will go down, just like it was in 05 and 06. Are these tourments in the summer - World Series et al - sanctioned by the WSA and what do they feel about them? And is the Paul Hunter German Open a world ranking event?

Finally...

I know 110sport(because Doyle has retired, hasn't he) or Matchroom(As Hearn is keen on the darts/premier snooker league) wouldn't try to overthrow the WSA like they did in 2001. But didn't Steve Davis, Dennis Taylor and somebody put themselves forward at a press conference to challenge around 2001? Do you remember what that was?

Has Clive's new book come out in paperback yet and was it nominated for the Whitbread Sport Books Award?

Do you have any idea why the Wheelsinmotion website stopped running?

I think thats all I can remember for now...

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

Hi Joe - have you been in prison or something?!

To answer your points:

1) Chris has retired. As far as I know his issues with World Snooker's benevolent fund remain unresolved

2) I believe Hamilton was written to and warned to keep his mouth shut in future. I doubt he's especially worried

3) Higgins's stablemate is Graeme Dott. Interesting point about Tabb. She can and does referee their matches but somewhere down the line someone may point out a conflict of interest. I have to say I regard her as far too professional for that to come into it

4) Wattana doesn't want the wildcard. As far as I know he's had enough of snooker

5) Thailand proved very expensive and interest there waned following Wattana's gradual demise

6) Drago has applied for the wildcard but he's doing so well in pool - he's just won a big 10-ball event in Vegas - that he may not need it

7) Don't know if Thorne's still in it or not

8) Talks are 'ongoing' on Bahrain - as they have been for at least three years. The Guardian last month reported that the investigation into the Malta Cup matches has been quietly dropped

9) No, Lawrie has left the circuit

10) Wildcards are used in non-British events to attract local interest. They are chiefly used in the Masters to reward players - such as Marco Fu last season - who have won a tournament but aren't in the top 16, although they were originally instituted to get Alex Higgins in the event

11) It usually comes down to space at the venues and number of days for each tournament

12) Yes - but I'm not telling!

As to your other points...

Yes, Ali Carter really has trained as a pilot, although his snooker career is doing so well now he may have to put it on the back burner

Clive's book is out in paperback in the summer, I believe. It was nominated in the British Sports Book Awards but didn't win

Wheelsinmotion was mismanaged and the website shut down with the owners owing a lot of money to various people

You're thinking of Davis, Taylor and Terry Griffiths circa 1998. There aren't enough hours in the day to explain that one but basically they went into it with the best of intentions and came away disillusioned

In retrospect, the Ronnie press conference seems like a lot of fuss over nothing. The press officer did nothing wrong in my view. World Snooker have never really taken a strong line with Ronnie and he was only following the policy of his bosses and those who have gone before

Best press room? Much easier to think of the bad ones! We used to have massive one in Malta which was - I kid you not - bigger than some arenas. Still, it beats being out in the rain and wind like football journos

Best newcomer will probably be between Liang Wenbo and Mark Allen, even though, strictly speaking, neither are newcomers

Grand Prix - watch this space!

The World Series doesn't need a sanction from World Snooker following a court case in 2001 meaning this is no longer required. There may well be some other invitation tournanments springing up next season - I know of one well known player in particular who has a sponsor for one and is looking for a broadcaster

Anonymous said...

Good choices Dave- I think I have to agree with you on every point!
John H

Anonymous said...

Is this player looking for a broadcaster or a broadcast partner? As several events have shown in the past, it is far easier to sell a pre-packaged tournament that comes with directed pictures than one which requires a broadcast partner to come up with crewing and satellite time. After all, Eurosport has built up its involvement in the game through being able to piggy-back on other people's coverage, but in the end everyone's a winner. Similarly the use of webcasting for the championship league. Sometimes I think promoters in the game are a bit lazy expecting TV companies to do everything for them.

Anonymous said...

People,

Being a referee myself, and having had the privilege of refereeing in the professional circuit myself I would like to comment on what's been said about the possible "conflict of interest" with regards to Mrs. Tabb.

Overall the referees that I know are on the best of terms with all of the game's players, whether they are ranked 1 or 92 in the world. Both sides of the equasion also have to remain professional when it comes to their jobs: the player needs to play; the referee needs to referee.

If this were to become a serious issue then I think another issue should be pointed out: can an Englishman referee an Englishman, or a Welshman a fellow Welshman.

I can honestly say I'd find this a little bit downplaying the referees' qualities and professionalism.

Just my 2 cents' on this.

hegeland said...

Oh yes, I remember that break by Fergal, I sat on the fourth row or something.