Bill Werbeniuk had a small cameo role in one of the most iconic of all Crucible moments.
As his friend and fellow Canadian Cliff Thorburn meticulously set about compiling the World Championship’s first maximum break in 1983, Werbeniuk stopped playing his match on the other side of the arena and peered around the partition to watch the Grinder clear up.
In doing so, Werbeniuk demonstrated the appeal of snooker as a top level sport: the quiet, still, even oppressive atmosphere. The watching. The waiting.
After the last black went down he hugged Thorburn and his opponent, Terry Griffiths, with an unalloyed joy which spoke volumes for his generosity of spirit.
Werbeniuk was gargantuan, an Oliver Hardy look-a-like who guzzled lager in quite astonishing volume. He suffered from hypoglaecaemia, which allowed him to quickly burn off the effects of alcohol.
He claimed he needed to drink to control the tremor in his arm, the result of an hereditary heart complaint. For a while the inland revenue allowed him to claim for beer as a tax deductable expense.
Before a match Werbeniuk would typically sink six pints and would generally drink one more per frame.
He once played Ian Black in a qualifying match. During one frame, there were three toilet breaks between the two players.
In 1990, Werbeniuk lost 10-1 to Nigel Bond in the world qualifiers and afterwards announced: “I’ve drunk 28 pints of extra strong lager and eight doubles whiskies and I’m still not pissed.”
Later in life he lived in a mobile home. When a friend popped round and went to wash their hands they found beer coming out of the tap.
A proud competitor in any sphere, Werbeniuk once took on a Scottish professional in a drinking contest. With Big Bill leading by 42 pints to 41, his opponent collapsed.
Werbeniuk then went to the bar for a social drink.
At the Crucible, Werbeniuk once split his already tight trousers. His embarrassment was multiplied by the fact he wasn’t wearing any underwear.
On another occasion he broke wind with considerable force, the rasping sound shattering the still calm of the Crucible.
Deadpan, Werbeniuk turned to the crowd and asked, “who did that?”
But for all this, he was a very good player who in 1979 made the first Crucible break in excess of 140, a 142.
He appeared at Sheffield ten times and reached the quarter-finals on four occasions.
Werbeniuk was a folk hero, someone snooker fans of a certain age remember fondly. He was never world champion but the Crucible would have been a lot duller without his considerable presence.