10.2.10

ROBERTSON ON THE UP

‘There are no characters on the game any more’ is the tedious refrain often heard regarding snooker today.

Well, Neil Robertson is far more of a character – and a lot more attractive to watch – than half of the ‘personalities’ associated with snooker’s so-called golden age of the 1980s.

Last night, the Australian won group 5 of the Championship League and thus joins Stephen Maguire, John Higgins, Judd Trump and Marco Fu in the winners’ group next month, the eventual winner of which will be in the Premier League next season.

Neil, laid back and without ego, is well liked on the circuit but, as is usual in Aussie sportsmen, possesses a fierce competitive streak once he’s out on the arena.

He turned up for his first match yesterday just four minutes before it was due to start. He had done similar in the Premier League itself last year and once went to the World Championship without his shoes and had to buy a pair 15 minutes before play began.

This doesn’t point to the best preparation but, on the other hand, it shows how relaxed he is. Some players shrink from the pressure, Robertson seems to thrive on it.

His run to the World Championship semi-finals last season gave a global dimension to what remains a UK-dominated event.

And he will go to the Crucible this season as one of the favourites to lift the title.

Snooker struggles as a participation sport in Australia because of the country’s favourable climate, which sees most youngsters take up sports that are played outside.

Robertson got into snooker because his father ran a club in Melbourne. He was talented from a young age. At 14, he became the youngest player ever to make a century break in an Australian ranking event.

He turned professional at just 16 and headed for the UK but found it tough financially and emotionally and was eventually relegated.

In 2003, he beat Liu Song to win the IBSF world amateur title and returned to the circuit.

Robertson set up home in Cambridge but found the British weather to be so cold that he struggled to get out of bed in the early days.

Progress was rapid. He won the Masters qualifying tournament to earn a Wembley bow in 2004 and shortly afterwards reached his first quarter-final, at the European Open in Malta.

He became the fifth Australian to play at the Crucible in 2005 and won his first ranking title in 2006 at the Grand Prix. He has since won three more and is yet to lose in a ranking tournament final.

This season, he did little wrong to lose 9-8 to John Higgins in the UK Championship or 6-4 to Ronnie O’Sullivan at the Wembley Masters.

He lies third in the provisional rankings and has made more centuries this season than anyone else.

He also has a refreshingly postive outlook in a sport where almost everyone seems to have an axe to grind about something.

So Robertson, 28 tomorrow, seems to be at the peak of his powers and that can only be good for a sport that needs strong personalities, particularly from a country such as Australia where snooker has slipped into abeyance since the 1970s and 80s when Eddie Charlton was a big name.

His is a story that proves how hard work and talent can pay off.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

I love Neil. (And he must be good because a certain ROS has dissed him in the past.) I think he's exciting to watch and a great asset to the sport.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's some story that! Fancy turning up four minutes before your match starts. What a character!

Steve K said...

I love watching Neil play, he is a great asset to the sport and I greatly enjoyed watching his match live with RoS at Wembley in January, his 140 break was marvelous!

Mal said...

He has improved immensely in the last couple of season - even when he won his first ranking event, he just looked like a potting machine. Now he has much more fluecny in breakbuilding and also has improved his all round game and become more consistent. Definitiely will be challenging for major wins in next few years.

snookerbacker said...

Dave, I can't believe you neglected to mention his late arrival at Crondon last season when he got lost following his opponent Joe Perry to the venue and was docked two frames!

kildare cueman said...

Fantastic potter and great temperament, but hasnt got the positional precision of o sullivan or higgins. He will continue to improve in this department however, and may even go on to dominate the game for a couple of years. Reminds me a bit of Mark Williams when he first started to win tournaments.

shaun said...

seems to be getting stronger and stronger and sure to win a big one soon i hope so anyway seems a really nice bloke on and off the table

Anonymous said...

pity he isnt as fast as ronnie as he would get more fans.

snookerbacker said...

Just slightly off topic but Betfair have decided not to offer markets on the group matches anymore. They are citing 'integrity issues', specific to yesterday's matches. There is a piece about it on my blog if anyone is interested.

trophymad said...

Neil really is one of the most amazing players in the snooker scene. And he is always very nice with fans. I saw him live at three exhibitions in Germany so far and never said no if someone asked him for a photo or an autograph. He really is an enrichment for Snooker

jamie brannon said...

This guy has an ego the way he struts about shows that. It is not a problem with me though I like a bit of ego.

However, I don't see why he is such a character. He shows emotion yes, but I don't find him that interesting in interviews.

His breakbuilding has improved immensely although he still not as silky smooth as some in the balls.

Dave H said...

Snookerbacker - that's a ridiculous decision by Betfair. Only one match yesterday was 'dead' and that was the last group game.

If they'd seen the players huddled around the tournament office computer trying to work out the table and where they were they wouldn't be questioning anyone's 'integrity.'

Anonymous said...

'I don't find him that interesting in interviews'

Maybe he should act like a sulky kid and run down the other players...

Dave H said...

I'm getting fed up with Ronnie O'Sullivan being dragged into every topic.

I realise some people love him and some people hate him. I think we've all heard the arguments for and against so let's end it there unless he is specifically being discussed.

jamie brannon said...

Well the betfair situation is not too do with Neil Robertson either. I had no intention of bringing Ronnie in as you can see from my original comment. However to be honest Dave, if these unknown people keep having digs at me I struggle to resist not comment back. However I will try and resist more as I annoy myself in rising to the bait.

Dave H said...

I wasn't talking specifically about you, Jamie

Greg P said...

Robertson for me is a player I group with Maguire, in that I'm sort of disappointed that they haven't done more.

Okay, two Grand Prix titles. Very good. But I can't help feeling he should have won something bigger by now, he came all the way from 14-7 down (or something like that) to level at 14-14 with Murphy at the WC last year, then lost 17-14 from there, which was kind of disappointing. And Maguire hasn't done anything to match his 2004 UK Championship.

I'm sure I'm not the only snooker watcher who thought a few years ago that one of these guys would have won a world title by now. Granted, O'Sullivan and Higgins have been in great form these last 3 years and could have stopped anyone.

I guess now Robertson has a win over Higgins maybe this year he's finally ready to make a breakthrough. I can't help feeling that these two guys really need to take a long hard look in the mirror before Sheffield, and steel themselves.

I don't mean that in an unpleasant judgmental way, I don't personally know them so I can't fully judge their commitment, I can only go by what we see in the public arena. I'm just saying maybe Robbo isn't quite as fierce as you say he is. Maybe he needs some of that Charlton grit to push him over the edge.

JohnH said...

Nice piece of writing Dave. Whenever I have briefly spoken to Neil I have found him to be a credit to the sport and a sportsman who is a fine rolemodel for any young person, in the way he plays and the manner in which he relates to people.

snookerbacker said...

I totally agree with you Dave re: Betfair and wonder what the thinking behind it was. It would be interesting to know if Barry Hearn had an opinion on it.

snookerbacker said...

According to one poster on Betfair (I have his permission to quote what he was told Dave: ‘They shouldn’t have offered individual markets for group matches for the last 2 days and the people who put these markets up have been reprimanded'

Curiouser and Curiouser

jamie brannon said...

One thing I like about Neil is that he doesn't keep saying this player is great all the time, like certain players (Higgins,Selby and others culpable for this) he is considered in his opinions on the game.

Anonymous said...

i agree with you jamie some playes say that a lot.

Add ros to your list keeping mentioning hhggins

David said...

Neil Robertson is one of my favourite players to watch (along with a certain unmentionable-in-this-thread player & Judd Trump) and is definitely a more exciting Australian player to watch than 'Steady' Eddie ever was! Charlton was quite a character though and I imagine he would have been delighted to see a fellow countryman achieving such success in the game.

Anonymous said...

so you only like fast players Dave, is that what youre trying to say?

hegeland from TSF said...

"Snooker struggles as a participation sport in Australia because of the country’s favourable climate, which sees most youngsters take up sports that are played outside."

Sorry Dave, but snooker is struggling in Australia because it is not shown on TV (=nobobody knows it exists).

Dave H said...

Wrong. They get highlights of every event and Eurosport launched there last year.

hegeland said...

Perhaps you could clarify what these highlights mean Dave, all I know is that Robertson has said quite recently that his mum could only follow his career on WSA livescore.

I know Eurosport has recently been made available from some cable companies, but that is as you say only from last year so my point still stands I think. Few australians watch snooker on their TV.

Dave H said...

It's highlights of all the world ranking events plus the Masters and the Premier League

And it was Neil who told me that snooker suffers as a participation sport because of the weather

Anonymous said...

so, after two posts you are still wrong hegeland. keep trying son.

thanks dave for clarifying the situation, because for a moment i even considered that you may have been wrong.

hegeland said...

Thank you for explaining your opinion, it now makes more sense to me.