There was heartbreak for local hero Neil Robertson in Bendigo last year when he lost 5-4 to Dominic Dale in the second round of the Australian Goldfields Open.
Worse still, he lost after Dale got the snooker he needed on the final pink.
Even worse still, Neil’s mother was in the audience and, afterwards, in floods of tears. Dominic, in his humane way, apologized to her but I’m not sure that made any difference. It was not a popular result.
Robertson is one of the main reasons this tournament is on at all. After he won the world title in 2010, negotiations began between Australian promoters and the new Barry Hearn regime.
The result was the first world ranking event staged in Australia.
In the build-up to the tournament, Robertson has once again been doing his best to spread the word in a part of the world where snooker is still finding its way.
Outdoor sports rule in Oz. Robertson’s boyhood pals were all out playing Aussie rules, rugby and cricket while he was indoors in his father’s snooker club in Melbourne.
His story is well known: turned pro at 16, spent a couple of years on the tour, fell off, won the world junior title, was given a wildcard and arrived in the UK with £500 in his pocket determined to give the game one more go.
His rise to the top is an inspirational story. Players who don’t like travelling should consider the sacrifices Robertson has made to achieve his dreams.
He is now nicely settled in Cambridge with his partner and their young son and is, of course, one of snooker’s very best.
Last season, he won the Masters. Like many I thought he could win a second world title but in the second session against Ronnie O’Sullivan he was a mere spectator.
Robertson isn’t easily intimidated but O’Sullivan did what so many have tried and failed to do: got him under pressure.
Hopes are high in Bendigo that he can go all the way this year. He starts out today against Nigel Bond, who he beat in the first round last season.
I think one of Neil’s great strengths is that he always accentuates the positives, always looks for the best in any situation, even defeat. His glass is neither half full, nor half empty: it’s full to the brim.
Combine this with sublime long potting, heavy scoring and an iron tactical game and you have quite a package.
The Australian snooker community is rightly already proud of him. There would be no more popular winner this week.