As the professional season has now finished, here are my award winners for the campaign just gone.
Note to the winners: there are no actual awards.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Despite good campaigns for Mark Selby, Stephen Maguire and Shaun Murphy, the winner is Ronnie O’Sullivan by virtue of winning the world and UK titles, regaining no.1 spot and making three maximum breaks. O’Sullivan also appeared in two further finals and won the Premier League.
BREAK OF THE SEASON
We saw a number of 147s, including one by Ronnie O’Sullivan in the deciding frame of his UK Championship semi-final with Mark Selby, but I can honestly say the best break I saw all season was one of just 48 by Fergal O’Brien in his Northern Ireland Trophy quarter-final against O’Sullivan.
O’Brien was 4-2 up but had reds on cushions and balls awkwardly placed as he came to the table. He crafted the break out of virtually nothing and it was a display of sheer artistry by one of the circuit’s unsung talents.
PERFORMANCE OF THE SEASON
Ronnie O’Sullivan’s supreme display in making five centuries in the five frames he won in beating Ali Carter 5-2 in the Northern Ireland Trophy. Included in it was a 147. It was awesome stuff.
MATCH OF THE SEASON
The China Open final was of superb quality and went down to a very exciting conclusion as Stephen Maguire edged Shaun Murphy 10-9 all in front of a capacity crowd who remained in their seats until gone midnight. O’Sullivan v Selby in the UK Championship semi-finals comes a close second.
ACHIEVEMENT OF THE SEASON
Just ahead of Ali Carter’s run to the Crucible final comes Mark Selby, who became the first player in 19 years to win the Wembley Masters at his first attempt. He beat three great players – Stephen Hendry, Stephen Maguire and Ken Doherty – in deciding frame finishes and compiled four centuries in beating Stephen Lee in the final.
It heralded his arrival in snooker’s winners’ circle and he followed it up with his capture of the Welsh Open a few weeks later.
BREAKTHROUGH OF THE SEASON
The Chinese contingent, in the shadow of Ding Junhui, came into their own with Liu Song reaching the Grand Prix quarter-finals and Liu Chuang making the Crucible at just 17.
However, Liang Wenbo really came into his own by fighting through to the World Championship quarter-finals, doing so with great humour, audacious shot selections and a little controversy. Let’s hope we see plenty more of him in the future.
INNOVATION OF THE SEASON
The Championship League is a far more significant development than most people seem to realise. It has shown how tournament promoters can bypass not only the governing body but also television broadcasters and basically just do it themselves.
Ali Carter and Joe Perry’s successful ends to the campaign are down in large part to the fact they got match fit in this new venture. I know of a (very) well known player who rang up to try and get in it only to be told he couldn’t as he was already in the Premier League and it wouldn’t be fair on the others.
QUOTE OF THE SEASON
John Higgins complaining about conditions at the Crucible: “The tournament director will put a blazer on, go in front of the BBC and probably quote section 3a or whatever from some handbook.”
Within minutes of Higgins saying this, Mike Ganley duly appeared on the BBC in his blazer. Sadly, he didn’t have a handbook with him.
LOW POINT OF THE SEASON
The round robins at the Grand Prix, and to a lesser extent at the Malta Cup, left the sport facing accusations of corruption amid talk of police investigations.
The very suggestion of this – whatever the truth – damages snooker’s reputation. Regardless of what World Snooker say, most players loathe the format. It won’t be employed at the Grand Prix next season – you read it here first.
HIGH POINT OF THE SEASON
Two high points, just over 24 hours apart, at the Crucible when first Ronnie O’Sullivan and then Ali Carter each constructed a 147 break, which brought the crowd to their feet in appreciation of the dazzling skill on show.
For all the talk and controversy and complaints and arguments, these scenes illustrated what all of us already know: that snooker is a great game and, at the very highest level, can produce moments of sporting excellence that will forever be frozen in time.