Next up in this weekly series on former professionals, one of the most resolutely determined players ever to pick up a cue...

There have been many grinders to have played professional snooker but few were tougher than Eddie Charlton, a hard, durable Australian who appeared in three World Championship finals and was the last 60-something to compete at the Crucible.

Charlton first played snooker at the age of nine at his grandfather’s club in New South Wales but enjoyed a range of other sporting interests during his formative years.

He was a keen cricketer and boxer, played senior grade football for ten years and was part of the Swansea Belmont Club crowned Australian National Surfing champions in 1950. Charlton was especially proud of being asked to carry the torch during its journey through Melbourne at the 1956 Olympic Games.

Working as a coal miner, Charlton turned professional in 1963 and won the Australian Championship 20 times in 21 years, his only defeat in this period coming in 1968, the same year he made the first of around 200 trips to the UK, where snooker was entering a boom period.

Charlton was a regular on the BBC series Pot Black, which first showcased the game for British audiences, and won the title three times.

He earned the nickname ‘Steady Eddie’ because of his methodical approach to the game, which included long bouts of safety and playing almost every shot plain ball rather than employing side.

Charlton entered the first ranking list in 1976 as world No 3 and remained there for five years and as part of the game’s elite top 16 for ten seasons, spending a further seven ranked inside the world’s top 32.

His first attempt at the world title ended in a 39-34 defeat to John Pulman in 1968.

In 1974, Ray Reardon defeated him 38-32 and beat him again in 1975 in what proved to be the most disappointing result of Charlton's long career.

He seemed certain to clinch the title when he opened a 29-25 lead over Reardon at the Nunawading Basketball Centre in Melbourne. However, a missed brown cost him the next frame and gave Reardon the second wind he needed to turn the match around. He beat Charlton 31-30 in a close finish to the dismay of the partisan crowd.

Charlton did win the 1976 World Matchplay, the biggest title of his career, and was in the World Championship semi-finals again in 1979 but lost 19-17 to Terry Griffiths.

Charlton remained a constant presence at leading tournaments for the next decade, appearing in a total of seven ranking event semi-finals and 13 quarter-finals.

Evidence of his unshakeable desire to win was clear at the 1989 World Championship, where he fought for 10 hours, 24 minutes to battle past the Canadian Cliff Thorburn 10-9, the match finally ending at 2.40am.

Asked in the post match press conference if he felt a responsibility to the crowd to entertain, he replied (and this is, to say the least, cleaning the quote up): “I don’t care about the crowd, I’m here to win.”

Despite his hard boiled on table persona, Charlton was every inch a character and a well liked member of snooker’s cast of players during the boom years.

He was a champion swearer and would have been docked hundreds of frames were the rule against expletives in operation during his career.

His hair having receded into middle age, he nevertheless managed to acquire some more.

A great all-rounder, Charlton twice unsuccessfully challenged Rex Williams for the World billiards title and finished runner-up to Mark Wildman in the 1984 final by the slender margin of 1,045-1,012.

He reached the final of the only staging of the World Seniors Championship, in 1991, but was beaten 5-4 by Cliff Wilson having led 4-2.

In 1992, he endured the ignominy of becoming the first player to fail to win a frame at the Crucible Theatre. His 10-0 defeat to John Parrott in the first round remains as the only Sheffield whitewash.

At the age of 62, it proved to be his last Crucible appearance.

As the circuit expanded to over 700 players in the 1990s, Charlton, who spent several years as a member of the BBC commentary team, began to slip down the rankings, eventually retiring in 1996 and returning to Australia where he still competed in pool events.

Charlton received the Australian Order of Merit in 1980 and the Australian Sports Medal in 2001. In 1993, he was given a special award by the WPBSA for his services to the game.

He died in November 2004 at the age of 75.


Anonymous said...

didnt fall on deaf ears dave. I read it twice. Ta.

Bryn said...

Enjoying this series of profiles. I met Eddie once, in Warrington and he was very kind and happily signed a autograph. He was, if I recall, posing with two ladies next to the main snooker table in the arena. This was well before the match began and before the audience had entered.
The never-say-die attitude is always a good attribute in sport. The 10-0 defeat to John Parrott, hid the fact that he had defeated him not so long before that - so I was always surprised by the scoreline.