It’s chill-out time, Aussie style.
On Monday we return to the land where men are men and shiela’s are second class citizens. Yes, it’s down under we go for this season’s Australian Goldfields Open from the freezing cold city of Bendigo.
I don’t think I was alone in being fairly surprised that the future of this tournament, at least in the short term, was rubber-stamped towards the end of last season, but I also don’t think I’m alone in being glad that it was.
Although I never watch the very early matches, whenever I have tuned in for the coverage of the mid-morning starts it’s been first rate, with a nice relaxed style from the studio and the chance to listen to the velvetesque tones and laid back style of the undisputed King of the Snails Robby Foldvari in commentary.
It’s also a nicer format at the main venue than we’ve seen in Wuxi this week, with less of a conveyor belt feel about it and a simple two table set up with 32 players made up of 16 seeded players and 16 qualifiers plus two wildcards, keeping the tone of the relaxed feel of the tournament.
Despite all its plus points, a lot of the top players still don’t want to enter it. Lots moan about the financial side of things, claiming that flying to (sometimes) the other side of the globe for the possibility of earning less than they could earn for an exhibition at home is a waste of their precious time.
That may be the case for some and I suppose the better off players coming to the end of their careers who perhaps aren’t quite as driven as the younger crop have a point. But it’s nice that some of them do make the effort and support the event, they’ve a decent amount of time off after this so why not combine it with a holiday? That’s what I’d do, but some potters aren’t exactly known for their adventurous ways and will probably head home the minute they are beaten.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me is that Marco Fu has chosen not to defend the title he won last season. One can only assume that he has personal reasons for this as he’s competed in Wuxi and is not one that drops out of events lightly. It would be interesting to know why Marco didn’t enter though. But there are still enough big names in there to make it a decent spectacle for the locals who include of course, Maggie the Dog, the much loved pooch who attends and has won the hearts of the likes of Stuart Bingham and Shaun Murphy in the past.
Of course the locals will all want to see Robbo break his Aussie duck this week after a good week in Wuxi, rumour has it that Neil almost forgot to enter this and got his entry in at the last minute, which is very unlike him (it isn’t). Anyway, let’s hope he’s a bit more chirpy this week after his table gripes in China, he usually looks more settled at home and he will definitely want to win this for the crowds having disappointed them on the last three occasions.
Just a word on the wildcards, I’m not that familiar with Johl Younger but the other bloke, Matthew Bolton, has been the subject of a right old ding-dong in Snooker Scene of late. Apparently, our Matty got tanked up at the World Amateurs and started giving some Chinese kids the verbals in what was described as a borderline racist pissed up rant during which he ‘mocked their speaking style and mimicked their Oriental features’. He hit back with a right old go at the reporter Marcus Stead, who witnessed this in full, and all hell then broke loose both in the magazine and in a wider context on Facebook, which led on to a go at the editor Sir Clive of Everton, at one point Stephen Lee chipped in to say he’d knock Clive over in his car if he saw him. It’s been quite entertaining as a bystander I have to say.
Anyway, the draw for the tournament is here and I usually tune in to the action via the Bet 365 live streaming service which runs the Australian TV coverage, if you get the chance take a look, I like the way they cover snooker and it’s a bit like the way ITV set things up, which of course is a world away from the BBC with its sometimes ridiculous features, inappropriate howlers in commentary and it’s tendency to treat the viewers as if they are retarded, when as we all know, only half of them are.
Here’s my outright thoughts and the match schedule is included below.
Recommended Bet: 4 points on Neil Robertson to win the Australian Open at 7/2. 1 point each way on Ricky Walden at 33/1.
Monday (ALL TIMES ARE UK)
Andrew Higginson 5-0 Matthew Bolton
Dominic Dale 5-0 Johl Younger
Mark Allen 2-5 Fergal O’Brien
Matthew Stevens 5-3 Luca Brecel
Robert Milkins 5-3 Liang Wenbo
Ryan Day 3-5 Mark Joyce
John Higgins 5-3 Tom Ford
Ricky Walden 5-0 Marcus Campbell
Dark Mavis 5-3 Dominic Dale
Stuart Bingham 5-0 Scott Donaldson
Fergal O’Brien 2-5 Matthew Stevens
Xiao Guodong 5-2 Liam Highfield
Robert Milkins 5-2 John Higgins
Stephen Maguire 0-5 Jamie Jones
Shaun Murphy 5-0 Jack Lisowski
Joe Perry 4-5 Alan McManus
Judd Trump 5-2 Rory McLeod
Barry Hawkins 2-5 Peter Ebdon
Neil Robertson 5-2 Andrew Higginson
Michael Holt 3-5 Martin Gould