Time to get your balls out and give them a rub.
It’s been a period of welcome respite from the baize these last couple of weeks. OK, there are a few of them potting in China at the moment in the first APTC event, but come on, let’s face it, the season hasn’t really started yet has it?
But all that changes next week as the first proper tournament is decided over in Wuxi. Monday sees the resumption of this first real ranking event following the qualifiers in May and the draw and format for it can be found by clicking here.
The start of the season always brings with it a sense of anticipation amongst the baize anorak brigade. Wild predictions prevail and everyone has an opinion on who are the players that will dominate, flunk and make their big breakthrough over the next 11 months.
Well, this place is no exception. I’m not one to flannel around using wishy-washy language, it’s time to say it like it is. So I’m going to list my own ten to follow this season, ranging from the established big boys, through the teetering on the edge gang to the lower ranked dudes and rookies who I think are capable of making a name for themselves in an event or two.
You may agree with some, you may disagree with them all, that’s kinda the idea if you catch mee drift. None of us have a crystal ball but cor blimey if I had one I’d be polishing it furiously ahead of the action starting to try and get the advantage on those nasty old bookies.
If you are clever, bored or simply have nothing better to do in life you could post your own ten in the comments section. Just follow the format I have used below.
If you are clinically insane or have recently been imprisoned or hospitalised you could even come up with a clever scoring system and make this a little season-long contest based on how your team does.
The Anorak List perhaps?
If someone wants to do that and is prepared to keep the scores updated I suppose I’d better blag a decent prize from somewhere….it’s up to you. If I get more than 20 entries let’s do it.
The categories are based on the latest projected seeding list which is displayed here. Why not give your balls a good old rub and have a go yourself?
Was a bit shit until he won this.
The Top 16
Mark Selby: The World Champion may have some added pressure on him now, he’s arguably now the scalp that all the players want but Selby seems to have the temperament to handle his new found elevated status. It’s easy to forget how poor his season was by his standards until winning in Sheffield and turning his whole life around. He’s got a nipper on the way, he’ll tingle every time he’s introduced and I think it will bring out the best in him. I’d take him to win at least 2 full rankers this season. Perhaps he might even break the Crucible Curse? Don’t be daft, of course he won’t.
Ronnie O’Sullivan: ‘Bloody hell SB, you’re stating the bleeding obvious here, I’m not reading any further’ I hear you cry, but I shun your cries for this is my blog and I’m sticking with the lesser spotted Rocket to return to winning ways this season. A new ranking system that he might as well have written himself in the bath, a more or less categorical assertion that he’s not going to China anymore and that blasted man Peters still in his corner for me makes him as dangerous as ever. He’s bound to win a biggie, he might even be looking at the BBC Grand Slam to reassert his position at the top. Now there’s an incentive and a half.
Xiao Guodong: I think this is a big season for Xiao. He looks to me like the only Chinese player at the moment that might achieve the kind of consistency that only Ding has managed before. Wenbo flattered to deceive and for me is now firmly stuck in this 17-32 category without the obvious potential to rise any further and emulate the long-standing Chinese number 1. Guodong has the game, does he have the temperament? Whilst I don’t necessarily think he’ll win anything I can see him being at the business end a few times this season.
Martin Gould: A disappointing season last time saw Gould suffer in the rankings but in the World Championship qualifiers and even his defeat at The Crucible to Marco Fu, The Pinner Potter showed that he’s not quite dead and buried just yet. A couple of seasons ago he was the man most people had down as the next new ranking winner, he’s got the game and I think he’s capable of putting the results of last season out of his mind. He can start by deep runs in Wuxi and Australia if he’s still in the mood he was in April.
The only way is up.
Jack Lisowski: Jacko is keen to brush off the tag as ‘Judd’s mate’ and carve out the career that he seemed destined to flourish at two seasons ago. This has resulted in him getting back to his roots and leaving the trappings of fame which human magpie Judd so loves. As he puts it, Judd has won things and has earned it, he hasn’t. He’s started the season well in qualifying for Wuxi and Australia and perhaps the two seasons in the snooker wilderness have been a necessary exercise for him to get back on track and focus on what is most important to him. He’s got the game, now he has to give snooker 100% and fulfil his undoubted potential.
Anthony McGill: Anthony is another who like Jack might have expected to be a little higher in the rankings than he currently is if you’d have asked him a couple of seasons ago, but he’s been consistent without really making that big push to the top 16, which of course is a major step up for any player ranked outside the top 32. Anyone who watches him play knows how good he is, he is also, like Jack, one of those players with a good head on his shoulders. His dedication will pay off, it’s just a question of when.
Chris Wakelin: Lower down the list lies a player doing his thing under the radar. If this horse got any darker it would need headlamps. Chris came through Q-School last season to a chorus of ‘Who?’ from most in the snooker fraternity, me included. One minute he’s delivering your dog food and fishfingers in his supermarket van, the next he’s taking on bigger names on the baize and beating them. Watch this lad, he’s got a lot of positives going for him.
Grown a bit.
Oliver Lines: I first met Oli when he apprehended me in Leeds in 2012, he tugged at my knees (he was only little, I nearly tripped over him) and asked could he enter the SB Classic the following year. He did just that and to this day still holds the record break in the tournament, which is still his match highest of 142. Oli has seemed destined for pro-status since he shat his first nappy and now he’s there I’m sure he’ll make the most of it. A tactical game that defies his years, a cool head under pressure and a dad who will keep him grounded if his bonce starts expanding makes him the player to watch over the next two seasons.
Michael Leslie: Having served his two year professional apprenticeship and fallen off the tour it took a very impressive effort for young Michael to get straight back on via Q-School and a new two year card should see him make the most of the invaluable experience he has gained. John Higgins predicted a bright future for this fella when he first arrived but warned that his first experiences would be a lot of knocks, he was right. He’s already proved that he’s down but not out and if that potential that Higgins saw is to be realised, this is the start of that upward curve in his fortunes.
Mitchell Mann: Mitchell has already taken a few knocks and near-misses in his early career, more than some might take who are years older, but he’s now achieved his lifetime ambition by winning the European Championships and earning his pro ticket. Runner-up in last season’s SB Classic, he impressed me hugely and I believe he has what it takes to get to the top. He might not do it this season but I’ll bet he upsets a few higher up the list and progresses over the course of his first two seasons as a pro. One to watch now he’s made it to the pro-ranks.
Time to put the crystal ball away now, what do you reckon? Can you do any better?
HAVE YOU GOT THE BALLS TO ENTER ‘THE ANORAK LIST’?
SEE MARKO’S POINTS SYSTEM TABLE IN THE COMMENTS WHICH WILL KICK IN AFTER THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN – SO GET YOUR LIST IN WITH A CHANCE TO BE THIS SEASON’S ‘KING OF THE ANORAKS’.