So the season is over and that can mean only one thing: the annual Snooker Scene Blog awards, if your definition of ‘annual’ is something I did in 2008 and 2009 but not last year.
Like the Golden Globes, these awards are seen as an indicator - by me anyway - for the Oscars that are the World Snooker awards, which take place tomorrow at the Dorchester in London.
Anyway, a reminder to the winners that there are no actual awards, but plenty of cred, street or otherwise, to be gained.
Doubtless others will have their own ideas for who the winners should have been...
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Winner: John Higgins
When Higgins returned from suspension in November there were dire warnings that he would struggle to recapture his previous form and that it would take him a while to win a trophy. In fact, he immediately won his first tournament, reached the final of the second and, on his TV comeback, landed the UK Championship crown for a third time.
He went on to win a total of six titles during the campaign, rounded off by capturing a fourth world title, exhibiting remarkable mental strength and determination.
Higgins’s longevity at the top has been considerable. He was the best player in the 1997/98 season and several times since. He lost his no.1 spot largely because of the tournaments he missed but he was the best player of the season by some distance.
BREAKTHROUGH OF THE SEASON
Winner: Judd Trump
Trump has had to endure some pretty spiteful comments due to having the effrontery not to have been a world beater almost immediately that he turned pro.
But that all changed in Beijing when he mixed his awesome attacking game with some mature tactical play and displayed poise under pressure to win the China Open. More – much more – was to follow at the Crucible where his run to the World Championship final caught the public imagination.
Trump played the game with a smile on his face and his shot-making and general attitude were a joy to watch. And it shut up all those who doubted he could make it at the top level.
ROOKIE OF THE SEASON
Winner: Jack Lisowski
Lisowski, a level-headed, dedicated young player, lost his first three matches as a new professional and fretted about possibly falling off the tour but the new PTC series came to his rescue. He reached the final of event three and flourished thereafter.
The Gloucester potter, who wrote a column for Snooker Scene throughout the campaign, qualified for the final stages of the German Masters and Welsh Open – where he ran John Higgins to 4-3 – and also the PTC Grand Finals.
He lost out 10-9 to Steve Davis in World Championship qualifying but ended the season inside the top 64. Lisowski will no doubt take inspiration from all this and from the achievements of his housemate – Judd Trump.
BREAK OF THE SEASON
Winner: Stephen Lee (61)
There have been some great breaks – centuries, maximums – this season but Stephen Lee’s 61 clearance to complete his 5-4 victory over Mark Williams in the first round of the China Open was, in the context of what had gone before, a superb example of nerve under pressure.
Williams had made four century breaks in the match but Lee hung on in there and made it 4-4. He trailed 11-70 when he came to the table in the decider with three of the five remaining reds close to cushions.
Lee set about the clearance, developing the reds, but finished awkward on the black and needed the rest to pot it. Cool as you like, he did, and completed a remarkable victory in what was perhaps the finest best of nine frame match contested all season. You can watch it here.
SHOT OF THE SEASON
Winner: Judd Trump
In fact, not one single shot but a series of them from Trump, who raised the bar for attacking snooker at the Crucible.
The amount of long balls he powered in was incredible, the embodiment of talent, self belief and nerve on the big stage, which is clearly where he belongs.
I have a few favourites: the red down the side cushion (which won the BBC’s Shot of the Championship) and the high pace black he rammed in to complete the century in the 12th frame of the final included.
MATCH OF THE SEASON
Winner: John Higgins v Judd Trump
Yes, it’s a boring choice to pick the world final – and there were many other contenders – but Higgins v Trump was a great way to round off a successful season: the established modern great against the new kid on the baize, full of drama, intrigue, close frames and all played in a wonderful atmosphere in Sheffield.
Trump delighted his many new fans by building a 10-7 first day lead but Higgins found his form on the second afternoon when, trailing 12-9, he cleared blue to black after Trump had missed a tricky blue down the side cushion using the rest.
Higgins led 13-12 going into the evening but Trump continued to go for his shots and could have closed to just 17-16 behind only for Higgins to get the snooker he needed, double the pink and slot home the black to bring the curtain down on a great match, championship and campaign.
Winner: German Masters
The World Championship is always the best tournament so I have disqualified it from this category. Instead, the honours go to this new event which marked the return of big time snooker to Germany and proved that the game’s popularity here is no myth.
The final was attended by around 2,500 people, all of whom played their part in creating the unforgettable atmosphere for Mark Williams v Mark Selby. The prolonged, heartfelt standing ovation that followed Williams’s victory will live long in the memory.
Berlin witnessed some fine snooker but it was the audience that helped make it such a spectacular success story.
Winner: the new ranking system
Under the old ranking system, a player could wait months to see any improvement in their ranking if they won a major title. Players outside the top 16 winning ranking tournaments would still have to go to qualifiers. Players not winning matches full stop would be protected.
Barry Hearn’s new system has changed all this. Now, it is possible to make strides up the list for doing well – rewarding success and not protecting mediocrity.
It has made a huge difference to a number of players and even some of those who have lost out as a result – Mark King being an example – have applauded the changes. They have given the players the incentive of aspiration. As one said to me: “I didn’t start to play snooker to try and stay where I was. I did it to shoot for the stars.”
Winner: Power Snooker
In fairness, the idea behind Power Snooker was conceived with the best of intentions: to create a new, vibrant form of the game mixing tradition with innovation.
What we got, though, was an odd hybrid of snooker and stag-do, an event played before an increasingly drunk crowd shouting abuse so unpleasant that it left one of the referees in tears.
The game itself was entertaining enough but was trumped by Barry Hearn’s own short-form version of snooker, the Shootout in Blackpool, where the banter was better natured and the action more enjoyable.
UNSUNG HERO AWARD
Winner: Chris Lovell, the Paul Hunter Foundation
When Paul Hunter died of cancer at the tragically young age of just 27 in 2006, the sport was shocked and saddened. Snooker had lost one of its brightest stars.
Paul, though, was always such a positive spirit and those around him resolved to do something positive in his name. Thus, the Paul Hunter Foundation was born and it goes from strength to strength, giving young people who have had to endure disadvantages in life a chance to play snooker and build their confidence.
Chris Lovell and his team deserve great credit for their endeavours and for keeping Paul’s name alive in such a worthwhile way. Find out more about their work here.
Your view of websites depends on what you want from them. Some want information, some want opinion, some want a chance to express their own opinion.
In my line of work, facts are paramount and so I commend those behind www.snooker.org, a website full of constantly updated information including latest scores, results and rankings which together form an invaluable resource.
This was actually one of the first snooker websites, established way back in 1994 when the internet was not a major part of most people’s lives. It has flourished again in the last year and is now the first place I go to crosscheck information.
Winner: Matt, ProSnookerBlog
Twitter now has a fun, relaxed snooker community featuring players, referees, commentators and fans. If you’re wondering what the point of it is, well, there isn’t one really.
That said, at the World Championship qualifiers snooker fans starved of a chance to watch web streaming of the matches were treated to an invaluable service from Matt from Pro Snooker Blog, who gave a running commentary of the action.
It made compelling reading and was proof of the power of social media. The snooker authorities, not always the quickest to recognise the importance of such things, should take note.
THE BARRY HEARN AWARD FOR BEING BARRY HEARN
Winner: Barry Hearn
Hearn, like so many of his predecessors who have run snooker, is full of big talk. The big difference, though, between him and them is that he actually delivers. In just one year Hearn has presided over a rejuvenation for the sport that has left everyone feeling more positive. New tournaments, new sponsors, new formats...Hearn has injected his considerable energies into making snooker- his first sporting love – big again.
This season was just the start. In 2011/12 the circuit will touch down in Thailand, Australia and Brazil and snooker is now becoming more in line with other sports – no huge gaps between tournaments, opportunities there for players willing to take them.
Hearn doesn’t do modesty. Neither should he. His achievements since becoming World Snooker chairman speak for themselves. For once, the game is in safe hands.