30.5.13

THE AUSSIES

The qualifiers for the Australian Goldfields Open have begun, with places available for 16 qualifiers in Bendigo in July, joining the top 16 seeds.

Note: the top 16 seeds rather than the top 16. Half of the elite group have declined the chance to go to Australia.

Prize money for this ranking tournament is significantly lower than the other events, especially when you factor in the expense of getting there.

Players who feel they don’t need to go are not going, although this isn’t necessarily the whole story. One top player who hasn’t entered told me he would have done had the event been played in a big Australian city rather than the back of beyond.

Australia has a long snooker heritage but the game has always been a peripheral activity compared to other sports, particularly those played outside.

Neil Robertson, who has worked hard to promote the Goldfields Open, took up the game because his father ran a snooker club in Melbourne. But many of his peers were out playing Aussie Rules and cricket instead.

Vinnie Calabrese seems to be a promising prospect and has joined the tour this year. He follows in the footsteps of several Aussies of snooker times past.

It’s often said that the best cueist of all time was Walter Lindrum, the former world billiards champion. His nephew, Horace, won the 1957 World Snooker Championship from a field of two after all the top players boycotted the tournament and staged their own.

In the 1980s there was the toweringly tall John Campbell and Warren King, who was runner-up to Steve James in the 1990 Mercantile Classic. But the great figure in Australian snooker in the TV age was Eddie Charlton, who three times finished runner-up in the World Championship and who also promoted tournaments in his home country.

Eddie was a hard case; a tough as old boots snooker warrior. He would have laughed heartily at claims of ‘burnout’ – this is a man who used to undertake hundreds of flights between the UK and Australia and think nothing of it.

He had been a surfer, a cricketer, a boxer and very probably wrestled crocodiles of a weekend.

At the table, Charlton had a win at all costs approach which meant less pushing the boat out and more tethering it to the nearest post. He less threw caution to the wind than locked caution up in a dank cellar and threw away the key.

He once beat Cliff Thorburn 10-9 at 2.40am at the Crucible. A journalist asked him afterwards if he had considered the crowd and the entertainment value of the match.

His response was: “F*ck the crowd, I’m here to win.”

His safety game caused all manner of trauma for hapless opponents and he rarely put any side on the cueball, meaning he wasn’t as proficient a break-builder as some of the other players of his era.

That said, he made the first ever century at the Crucible in 1977. He had also made the first century in the BBC’s Pot Black, a title he won three times.

Eddie was never world champion but was without peer in one area: swearing. Many who played him attested to this. Had the £250 fines been in operation back then he may have gone bankrupt.

Superbly, he also reverted to Aussie stereotype when he felt he had a point to make. He once read something a journalist colleague of mine had written which he didn’t like and so marched into the pressroom and called him a ‘Pommie shirt-lifter.’

Charlton’s longevity was proof of how much he loved the game. Into his 60s he beat both Jimmy White and John Parrott in ranking events, although it was Parrott who delivered a wounding moment, the only 10-0 whitewash at the Crucible in their first round match in 1992.

Earlier that season Charlton had reached the final of the first World Seniors Championship, losing 5-4 in the final to Cliff Wilson.

He did some BBC commentary but time inevitably caught up with this formidable character and he eventually fell off the tour.

Charlton died in 2004 but even then his remarkable attributes were brought to the fore. The WPBSA forgot to take him off the ranking list but did remove someone who had retired. Therefore, in death, Steady Eddie actually rose up the rankings.

The charismatic Quinten Hann looked like he could take Australian snooker forwards. He had the looks and he had the game but lacked the professionalism. During one World Championship he won his first round match, flew back to Australia then came back to the UK and lost in the second round.

Robertson is a far more level-headed character although has had a few mishaps of the table when it comes to preparation. This week he made a 147 in the Wuxi Classic qualifiers – a great break, by the way. However, Mark King tweeted that Robertson had to borrow Matt Selt’s playing gear as he had forgotten to bring his own.

It’s hard to see too many Australian players following in Robertson’s considerable footsteps. Sadly, his many achievements have barely made a ripple in the media back home.

This is a shame because his story is inspiring: leaving his family to come to the UK with £500 in his pocket, pursuing his dreams and ambitions and realising them.

Neil’s own brother, Marc, gave it a go this year by entering Q School but failed to qualify for the main tour.

This is the last of the Australian Goldfield Open’s initial three-year deal. Whether it returns to the calendar remains to be seen.

It would be a shame to lose it because the Australian snooker public have waited a long time after Charlton for another world class player and, now they have one, they’d like to see him up close, doing their country proud.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is a shame that it's being played in the middle of nowhere.

It's going to be hard enough to fill a venue in a country where snooker is so far down the pecking order, so why not give yourself the best chance of doing that by playing it where people actually live?

I know local sponsors and promoters come into play, but would they not be happy to play it in Melbourne, given that the sponsorship deal seems to involve promoting that city.

The other thing which needs to be addressed this season is the ticketing/seating for the Chinese events.

It just looks so bad to see endless empty seats, and it seems so simple to fix. Stop putting daft prices on tickets next to the table, which nobody seems to buy anyway, and bring the punters down from the balcony seating where they're out of the view of TV. Just seems so obvious.

PaulG said...

why dont they increase the prize money and players will have no problem going.if it was 85k like most of the china events they would travel.whats your gut feeling dave do you think this is the last we see of it on the calendar ?.

Dave H said...

I wouldn't know either way. It did good figures on Chinese TV apparently because of the time of day it's played and this could be a factor.

Unknown said...

Not the first time i have heard Neil Robertson being tardy in his preparations. Come on Neil do yourself a favour and remember to show up with the proper gear and on time if you could help it.

Anonymous said...

2 things. Firstly somebody purporting to be Hann (@QhQuinten) tweeted that he had no intention of ever coming back. No way of knowing that its him but a shame if its true - the standard now is lower than it was when he was a top 16 player, and he could still do some damage if he came back.

Secondly for all Bazza talks about wanting players to support the event, the WPBSA could invest in this event a bit more. Having it in a sports hall 100 miles from Melbourne in order to get sponsorship from the Aussie equivalent of a regional development authority is pathetic. Surely Bazza (through his contacts) could get a hall at the Crown in Melbourne or Sky City in Sydney, then get some Chinese betting company to sponsor it (if the TV audience is good due to time zones). Also no need to pay appearance money, but if the top 16 got their expenses covered a good few more of them might make the trip. All of this would increase the chances of a successful tournament.

Bazza took a chance the first time he hired a 10000 seat arena for Premier League Darts and look at it now - he should be prepared to do the same with Snooker every now and again...

Anonymous said...

3:56 - this is a question for Dave, but do the Chinese have a thing about not appearing on TV? Can remember the Beijing olympics being the same, until they starting sending in truck loads of army people to fill the empty seats. Is there such a full on work culture that people are ashamed of being seen watching a sporting event?

Dave H said...

I don't think that's it: I once saw a punch-up in the arena over seats when the wrong table was announced for one of Ding's matches. However, the ticket prices at some events are higher than people can afford.

Anonymous said...

6.35pm are you being serious ?.Hann is a shithouse.who of the current players is he gonna beat after 8 years out ?.O'Sullivan,Trump,Robertson, Ding,Selby or Higgins perhaps ?.absolute rubbish.

PaulG said...

Dave how were the viewing figures in europe ?.off topic have you been on the World Snooker website if you go to the livetv fixture list for the season.in Oct it lists the Indian Open and in Jan it lists Qatar Masters.so it looks like these two events are going ahead.any idea why they have not been announced Dave ?.

Anonymous said...

Probably none of them since he wasn't even top 8 standard when he was on the tour, but if he entered a few PTCs it would be intriguing to see how he would do.

Anonymous said...

10:03 agree it would definitely take a big change in the 'mental application' that Hann showed 8 years ago for him to fulfil his potential, and that he would come up short against the 6 you mention, but could see him getting results against your Binghams and Mark Davises.

Its academic anyway. TBH just trying to think of ways to make a tournament in Australia work. Melbourne was renowned as the place where any sport could draw a crowd so cannot understand why they cant put the event on there. Surely Bazza could go through his mates at Newscorp to get the local media to talk up a snooker event?

The last time I visited the Crown Hale & Pace were the headline act, so its not as if the locals set the bar all that high. Surely its worth a go for 1 year?

Anonymous said...

10.03

Out of those 6 players you mention, Higgins, Ding and Selby are quite beatable. And then there's a lot more on the tour. Plus the new format would be in his favour.

But just because he can, doesn't mean he will.

Dave H said...

Hann won't be back unless he pays the five figure sum he still owes to World Snooker.

India and Qatar are planned but the deals have yet to be signed.

PaulG said...

but them being signed is more or less a formality you would think at this stage if they are up on the fixtures list would'nt you say. ?.

Anonymous said...

Higgins,Ding and Selby may well be beatable.all players are beatable.i just don't think hann would beat them.

Blind Man said...

Being from Melbourne I can clear some things up.
First of all it is mainly Asian students that are big into snooker here. Sydney has the strong league event whilst Melbourne have kings establishment in braeside that could be used. The problem being 3 fold
1. The event is held in the middle of the footy season and we get around 300,000 to these events in Melbourne alone. (6 matches) held on Friday night sat and sun.
2. Pool is by far the biggest game but is badly organised and mainly run from pubs with coin op machines.
3. The lack of interest in the event can be blamed by the bad advertising. It is advertised like a circus is coming to town. There is no posters in clubs and venues anywhere.

I agree that if it was hosted in Melbourne and had a view celebs turn up it would be massive.
American 9ball is starting to take off here mainly due to the win a trip to Vegas comp. would be good for snooker to organise something similar.

Even Geelong would work. They have a pool comp there over a weekend each year worth $20,000 and it gets 400 contestants.

Anonymous said...

BTW does Warren Simpson deserve a mention (one of only 4 Aussie's to play in a World Final)?

Anonymous said...

4.16 makes it clear ws don't know the score in Australia.

jc said...

nice blog, thanks