December 3, 2011

Snookerbacker Classic Leeds Review

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 6:48 am

As excited as a really excited person who has an exciting reason to be excited.

There are those that talk a lot about ‘The Snooker Gods’. I believe that it may have been the great Sir Clive of Everton that coined the phrase originally but many a match has been won and lost, many a career secured and ruined down the years with their help and hindrance that we must surely give them respect.

So would ‘The SG’s’ be looking down on ‘The SB’s’, myself and Mrs Snookerbacker, as we made our way over to Leeds for the first snooker tournament I have organised since I was around 14 when I used to do drawsheets for all the major events and play them out myself on a 6×3 table in the kitchen? I certainly hoped so.

We were greeted at the fantastic Northern Snooker Centre by some of the very jolly cleaners that work there and then by one of the resident professionals and a friend of the blog David Grace, who I reckon must be at least ten foot tall. He showed me around the tables and the set up as Mrs SB set the desk up with posters, goody bags and cakes for the players. Peter Lines was also an early starter there and gave a nod in my general direction, he was clearly focused on a hard days’ practice ahead of his meeting with Martin Gould in the UK first round.

It wasn’t long before the players began to arrive, each being given their goody bags to differing reactions, ranging from confused, to mildly amused to just baffled. Frequent comments from those around confirmed to us that this was not going to be like any other tournament and the gasps of wonderment continued as each of the players got to grips with their bags of delight. Of course, there were one or two who were just a little ‘too cool for school’ to pick theirs up straight away, but in the end they all ended up with one and walked away the happier for it. The Snooker Gods were clearly rewarding the efforts of my wife and I in the ‘we’ll make you feel at home’ department. Her cupcakes (on an ‘antique silver stand’ as she kept reminding everyone) surrounded by doilies being a particular focal point for those milling around.

But then came the moment when I started to think that perhaps the Snooker Gods were going to turn against us. It all started with a cash transaction and a man by the name of Allan Taylor discreetly slipping some money he owed me under the cake stand with a wink, then a mysterious man walked in and handed me an envelope (white as it happened but it might as well have been brown) which contained more cash. All this and then a shout from behind the bar that there was an ‘Inland Revenue Do’ on later in the day upstairs….my eyes shot to our suitcase and I wondered for a moment whether this was time to pack up and make a hasty escape. My fears were heightened when the only player to not turn up was Allan Taylor’s opponent to cries of ‘Fix’ from his mate Brad…how could the Snooker Gods be so cruel after such a great start to the day I wondered?

But as quickly as they panic you, the SG’s then started to work their magic again and some fantastic snooker was played during the first session. Many people’s favourite for the first event Craig Steadman knocked in the first century of the day with 108 and found himself 3-2 ahead of Michael Rhodes, a very colourful character from the North East and a fine player, who came back with breaks of 83 and 75 to win 4-3 and send poor Craig and his goody bag home. Elliot Slessor and John Astley had a right old battle in the match which finished last in the session, Elliot winning 4-3 in a 3 hour tussle. Sean Hopkin, Gareth Allen,  Jamie Barrett and Jack Bradford joined Ryan Causton in fairly comfortable scoreline wins into the next round.

The second round saw some fantastic snooker and after his earlier marathon, Slessor made breaks of 65, 77, 96 and 85 to beat Sean Hopkin in under an hour. Sean, a lovely lad, took defeat in the way it should be taken and I’m sure learned a lot from his experience yesterday that he can build on. In the meantime Jamie Barrett was knocking in a 127 on his way to a 4-2 win over Jack Bradford and Ryan Causton beat Gareth Allen by the same score, two very evenly matched players with a lot of ability. Allan Taylor in the meantime went 3-0 down to Michael Rhodes and looked to be on his way home, but the Assassin was not beaten just yet and completed a brilliant comeback to win.

Jamie: Also excited just a little less animated about it.

The final matches were tense and the breaks were not coming as freely as they had throughout the day. Jamie Barrett and Ryan Causton did battle under the watchful eyes of referee Alex Crumb who is quite a character. When he wasn’t chatting up Mrs Snookerbacker he was cracking jokes at tableside. He’s an accomplished referee and I’m sure at first didn’t have a clue what he’d got himself into but I’m pleased to say that by the end of the day, he, Peter and Matthew, the three officials all agreed that the tournament was a great success. Jamie beat Ryan in a tense match played out on Graeme Dott’s 2006 World Championship winning table and on the other match table Allan came through against Elliot, who to some will be a new name, but at 15, probably one you will be hearing again some time soon.

All that was left then were the medal presentations and the thank you’s. Mr Taylor in particular was happy to pose for photographs at the end and although he would have you believe that the image above was a moment of weakness caught on camera, the words ‘Don’t you want one of me looking really excited?’ were uttered just seconds before it was taken.

But congratulations to Allan and Jamie who are now into Finals Day and two wins away from free Q-School entry. Allan’s place at Gloucester is now freed up but with the interest that was shown in the event yesterday from a few that hadn’t heard of it (they must have been living on Mars, or perhaps just don’t have internet) I’m not sure how long it will be before the last 4 places at the South West Snooker Academy are filled. If you want one, be quick.

We can’t possibly mention everyone that we extend our thanks to on here but if we didn’t get a chance to thank you personally yesterday and you are reading this, please take this as our belated gratitude for all your help.

A link to some brilliant photographs from Monique Limbos who very kindly made it in time for the two final matches after a very early start in Belgium on the way to York for the UK Championships are here.

It was then time for Mrs SB and I to pack up and head home, but not before stopping off for a bottle of wine and a curry to discuss the day. It was then and on the way home on the train that the tweets started coming in. It seemed that the day was a hit both with the players and others that came along and one particular ingredient in the goody bag began to come to the fore. All I will say is that if you don’t follow me on Twitter you will be missing pictures of creative genius re-tweeted. For those players who are yet to ‘sculpt and tweet’ it’s not too late, but you will go some way to beat the efforts so far from Allan and from John Astley. Apologies to any of you that may have thought it was a candy bar and eaten it, I did advise Mrs SB to put ‘DO NOT EAT’ in big letters on it.

Special thanks to, the sponsors of the ‘Pound a Point’ highest break prize yesterday which was won by Jamie Barrett with his excellent 127. Also special thanks to the staff at the Northern who made us feel very welcome and couldn’t do enough to help and made particular mention that the place had a real buzz and was ‘full of really nice lads’. I hope we’ll be back next year.

So after the Christmas break the next stops are Dublin, Gloucester and Essex, followed by the Finals in Gloucester. If you haven’t entered yet, email me at [email protected] to discuss. Like I say, Gloucester is now nearly full.

My final thanks must go to The Snooker Gods, Clive was right, you need them on your side.

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