How many professional snooker players have there been over the years?
It’s probably between 2,500 and 3,000 but very few have been like Quinten Hann and I dare say many involved in the sport are glad of that.
This brash Australian was born with a considerable natural talent but his career ended in disgrace.
Let’s be clear: Quinten was a fine player. When he got his head down he was often very impressive to watch.
He should have been a star: the Aussie swagger, the good looks and the talent. Sadly, for reasons best known to Quinten himself, he chose the path of self destruction.
The signs were there at an early age. As a boy he was banned by the Australian association for spitting at an opponent’s mother. Hann claimed he had actually been taking part in a ‘spitting contest’ with a pal and that the woman had got in the way.
He remains the youngest player ever to make a televised century, which he did at 13 in the junior event of the 1991 World Masters, a tournament won by John Higgins which also featured Ronnie O’Sullivan and Mark Williams.
Hann turned pro in 1995 and his talent was plain for everyone to see. He began to make a name for himself off the table as well when spotted by a model agency.
But he had a problem and it seemed to be in dealing with the pressure.
At the 1998 UK Championship and again at the Irish Open that year he needlessly conceded frames with as many as 12 reds remaining.
Why? Possibly because he needed to give himself an excuse to lose. If he gave the match away he could rationalise it in his own mind that he hadn’t really been beaten.
At Telford in 2000 he twice smashed into the pack off two cushions in breaking off in his match in the Grand Prix against Ronnie O’Sullivan. In two other frames he simply smashed into the reds after O’Sullivan had broken off.
A section of the crowd, who paid good money to see a proper match, booed him off.
I once asked him why he broke off in this way. He said he had a “50-50” chance of potting a red.
This was, of course, nonsense.
Quinten seemed to attract trouble, much of it unnecessary. I recall he arrived at the qualifiers of the 2000 World Championship in Newport with a pair of grey combat trousers, which did not conform to the WPBSA’s dress code.
He was informed that unless he bought a pair of proper trousers he would be scratched from the tournament.
Quinten went to a nearby Marks and Spencers and bought a pair of black trousers. He played in them with the labels still attached before giving them to a girl he had met to return and get his money back.
Hann once played in the UK Championship wearing socks because he had broken his ankle doing a parachute jump.
Far more seriously, he twice stood trial, and was twice acquitted, of rape. There were newspaper reports that he had been arrested for firing a gun outside a nightclub back in Australia.
At the 2004 World Championship he had to be separated from Andy Hicks by referee Lawrie Annandale after Hicks won their first round match.
Hann told him: “You’re short and bald and always will be and I’ll fight you for £50,000 any time you like.”
Hicks, a mild mannered, sensible sort, declined.
It was again an unnecessary, petulant way to behave but what wasn’t widely reported was what Hann said a day or two later when I interviewed him.
He seemed to be genuinely sorry.
“It just got a bit out of hand,” he said. “There was a bit of needle there and I took offence at what he said when he shook my hand. I’m not proud of what I said. I feel bad about it but everyone wants to win so badly at the Crucible. It was just the heat of the moment.
“I haven’t got the best temper in the world and I was out of order.”
He had, at last, recognised that his actions were not of the manner expected by a professional sportsman.
It was, though, far too late to salvage his own reputation as one of snooker’s bad boys.
He earned support from O’Sullivan, who said: “A lot of the other players don’t like Quinten because although they pot the balls, he pulls the birds.”
Indeed, Ronnie was in his Hann’s corner for ‘Pot Whack’, a bizarre boxing match with Mark King at Bethnal Green a couple of months after the spat with Hicks.
King looks like a man who can carry himself and it was widely assumed he would win.
Instead, it was Hann who triumphed over three bruising rounds. I interviewed him in his dressing room afterwards and he looked like he’d just won the world title at the Crucible.
He seemed to be the sort of character who could bounce back from anything.
That notion was disproved in chalet 147 at Pontin’s, Prestatyn in 2005. Hann was recorded by undercover journalists from The Sun newspaper, posing as members of a betting syndicate, saying he would be prepared to lose a match at that season’s China Open for £50,000.
He was later recorded giving them his bank details. The ‘sting’ was called off as the journalists could obviously not be party to a criminal act.
The Sun ran the story on the front page and Hann went back to Australia. He was later banned from playing in all WPBSA events for eight years.
Despite everything, I have to say I quite liked him, or rather I liked the fact that you were guaranteed to get a story out of him.
I can fully understand why he rubbed so many people up the wrong way and many of his actions in matches were deeply unprofessional but he did at least bring something different, if controversial, to the sport.
Put simply, he was a journalist’s dream. There was always something to write about.
However, match fixing – or in this case the intention to fix a match – is the worst thing a snooker player can do and it was quite correct that he should be thrown out of the game.
The Quinten Hann story is ultimately a tragic one: a talented player with the world at his feet undone by his own greed.
He doesn’t deserve any sympathy but I can’t help thinking snooker would be a little more colourful if he was still around.