I hope you've enjoyed this look back at great Crucible moments. In the last of them, I consider the reigning champion...

Two events outside his control conspired to take the shine off Neil Robertson’s world title triumph last year.

The first was the News of the World expose about John Higgins and Pat Mooney. The second was the absurd scheduling that left the Australian and his opponent, Graeme Dott, dead on their feet long before the end.

It’s funny how things turn out. The News of the World have themselves since been exposed for phone hacking and after years in which we were told World Snooker could not influence session times, Barry Hearn has immediately ensured a 7pm start for the two evenings of the final.

And despite all the controversy, Robertson’s capture of the world title remains a heart warming tale. Here was a player who had to uproot himself from the other side of the world at a young age, leave his family and friends behind and, with only £500 in his pocket, attempt to make his way in the snooker world.

He did this not just through his talent but also hard work. At first he found life in the UK difficult to attune to. The climate was so inclement by Australian standards that he couldn’t get out of bed.

Not always self confident, eventually he came to feel part of the circuit and the top players came to regard him as a dangerman.

His early rawness was ironed out and what we saw at the Crucible last year was a tough, take-no-prisoners match player adeptly mixing attack and defence to claim the title.

Neil had a massive escape of course in the second round against Martin Gould, whose 11-5 lead he overturned to become 13-12 in his favour. After this he must have felt like destiny was calling.

He hasn’t had a spectacular season – first time champions often don’t – but won the World Open and was briefly world no.1.

A few off table calamities have enhanced his reputation as not being the best prepared player in the world but he has taken all of this in good part.

And Robertson doesn't complain, even though he has cause to: he sees his family only rarely. He and his partner have a young son but no family nearby to share the load. But Neil is a naturally positive person and takes all this in his stride.

The great moment of his world final came in its aftermath when he was joined in the Crucible arena by his mother, Alison, as they unfurled the Australian flag.

It was the first opportunity she had had to watch him play live as a professional. Due to his success, it looks like she will have another if, as expected, World Snooker announce a full ranking event to be staged in Australia this summer.

As Robertson pointed out to me when I interviewed him last year just as important as how you play at the Crucible is how you cope between sessions.

This is where his personality was a plus. He’s not a panicker, not a worrier. These attributes will hold him in good stead as he attempts to defend the title.

I like Neil and how he plays the game. He has the attitude of a winner. Indeed, he has won all six of his ranking tournament finals.

He doesn’t fear anyone, doesn’t regard himself as inferior to anyone and relishes the big stage.

All characteristics of the greatest names to have landed the World Championship.


Anonymous said...

good luck neil

i hope his mum and his girlfriend can appear this year to cheer him on

Rab Pirrie said...

Would really like to see Neil retain the title. He has a tremendous attitude and I think he is fantastic to watch.

Anonymous said...

Great article Dave. I personally take my hat off to Neil, it must have taken great guts & determination to leave home at 16 & travel half way round the world to archive his dream. From what I've read I understand he found it very difficult at first and returned home several times before settling in the UK and climbing up the rankings. Last year he achieved his dream when he became world champion & No1. I do wonder how many of the UK players would have achieved so much if they had to have made the same sacrifices as Neil & the other foreign players!!


good luck robbo world champion

Australia is proud of you

Anonymous said...

A shame for Aus that because of the time difference, not many got to see his crowning moment. Mind you, not many Brits could stay up that late either. Glad to see a 7pm start to the final session. Will make work the next morning a little easier.

Anonymous said...

Hi - I am definitely glad to find this. great job!

Anonymous said...

Does a 7pm start mean that play will start at 7pm, or that the broadcast will start at 7pm, and that the presenters will witter on for about 10 minutes or more?

Anonymous said...

I would think the other parts of the world has it good timewise. The finals of all the tournaments start way too late for the working people. Most europeans are at least one hour ahead and I rarely get to see the conclusion to the finals because I have to sleep.

Why snooker is a late night sport is a mystery to me. Why not play in the late afternoon and get more viewers for the whole show? Sure, it is nice to get the kettle on and enjoy the midnight finishes if possible but work sadly comes first in this life. If I could retire I certainly would.

World snooker should plan around my existence is what I'm saying!

Everybody I know feels pretty much the same way. Come monday (or tuesday in WC's case), no one has seen it; "had to sleep", "way too late for me", "couldn't stay up, how did it end" and so on....

The finals are always a huge anti-climax after a great week (or two).

Betty Logan said...

I think you have a valid point, 412. Snooker's audience is eastwards, so an afternoon finish would be an evening in China, and somewhere inbetween everywhere else. The world championship should aim for maximum worldwide exposure, and if they made the final and the semis three sessions like the other rounds they could finish on a Sunday afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Didn't they always used to finish in the afternoon in the 80s?

Oh wait, that was because Davis beat everyone with a session to spare...haha