Posts by: Matt Huart

WDBS Q&A Christopher Goldsworthy

In our latest WDBS Q&A we spoke to our two-time Group 6B runner-up and Belgian Open Challenge Cup winner Christopher Goldsworthy to learn more about his lockdown experience and his snooker journey so far…

Hi Christopher, how have you found the past six months during these most unusual times?

I have found it a struggle, as my routine of playing snooker a few times a week was disrupted because of the whole thing. This pandemic has caused issues for a lot of people, I’m no exception. Because I like routines, this has taken a huge hit on me as everything has stopped for now and trying to adjust to unpredictability is difficult for me.

Have you been able to play snooker during this period of lockdowns and restrictions?

Yes I have. Only the past three months I have been able to pick up my cue. I was able to go to my local club of a Friday evening to practice. I also had some coaching sessions with my coach as he wanted to pick up the sessions again. So that was another avenue of practice to keep me on top of my game.

You enjoyed a memorable debut at the 2019 Southern Classic in Swindon, almost defeating our multiple champion Leroy Williams in the final. What do you remember from the weekend and what encouraged you to enter the event?

I remember Swindon being a very interesting place. On the way there, dad and I were talking about Swindon’s magic roundabout. On the table I was going into the event with an open mind to have a good time. I still remember beating Peter on the final black in the final frame to get through to the final and doing well at the start of that final.

I heard about the WDBS when it was first launched and thinking ‘oh sweet something that I could take part in’ but I found out that there was not a group for me at the time. It was when my family and I were talking about snooker at the dinner table when I decided to check up on the classification section only to find that there was a group 6B specifically for people under the ASD. We rang the organisation the next day about taking part and the next thing you know I made my debut in Swindon.

What has been your impression of the WDBS Tour and how much have you enjoyed the competition?

I’m impressed by how the WDBS is run, the open days are well set out and offer people an opportunity to play with coaches there for advice and support. I’ve got some good experience out of this and I’m very happy about that.

I’ve enjoyed the competitions, especially the Welsh Open where you can play a range of different people with disabilities and get to know them.

You played in your first non-UK event earlier this season at the Belgian Open, winning the Challenge Cup. How much did you enjoy the weekend?

It was my first time outside of UK soil, so it was a different experience for me. I had a really good time with my dad, I was apprehensive in going because I’ve never been abroad before, but I got comfortable as the tournament went on. Looking back now I did have a very good time. A picture of me and dad standing behind a banner was taken and I think that amused some people there.

You always come to your tournaments with your dad, how supportive has he been of your snooker?

My dad is my number one fan. My dad loves snooker as well and is very proud of me competing at this level. My dad also likes talking with other snooker players and their parents/cares as they share their experiences of their children with disabilities. My mum would love to come and support but she gets nervous when I’m playing.

How impressed are you by the standard of players on the WDBS circuit?

I’ve been impressed by the standards and styles of the other players. When I joined I had an open mind on how other people play with their disabilities. There are some good snooker players and I am impressed at their standards and it’s a challenge for me to try and beat them.

How does Autism affect your snooker and are there any particular challenges at events that we do not see from the outside?

With my Autism I struggle with change. For example if I am told I’m playing at a certain time and then it is changed last minute, my anxiety levels rise and I get stressed over the change. I want my mind to stay focused on the game of snooker but with my Autism the anxiety/stress levels get to me when I know it should not but it is difficult to handle at times.

How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you want to pick up a cue yourself?

When I was younger, I always had an interest in individual sports, snooker and bowling for example. With snooker I can focus on my game and myself without and distractions from others which I feel that team games can be susceptible at times with teamwork.

At the age of ten I had an interest in snooker and one of my family members friends gave me a snooker cue that was used by her husband. Near two decades on and I’m still playing snooker using the cue to this day.

What are your biggest snooker achievements so far?

I won a few competitions in a now defunct local league, at the end of their seasons they would do a team knockout. One season our team didn’t do so well but we had good momentum in the knockout to with that competition. During the last season it was running I ended up winning both the singles handicap and singles scratch competitions, I also got a trophy for highest win ratio in the league that season as well.

For WDBS I came second twice (including my debut), and won the challenge cup in Belgium, hopefully I can take that victory to win more in WDBS competitions.

How much are you looking forward to being able to get back to tournaments again when it is possible?

I cannot wait. I miss the socialisation of meeting other people at snooker, I’ve got to know a lot of people playing snooker and to have that taken away has been stressful. When we get back to the swing of things or some normality, I’ll be excited to play against my opponents once again.

What are your off-table interests and hobbies? We hear that you have a black belt at karate…

Computing has been one of my main interests, especially on the video game testing side along with coding on software.

I got my black belt a few years ago, I was doing karate for seven years and in late 2016 I got my first Dan black belt. When the class I usually go to closed down for administrative purposes I sort of retired from the practice as I was busy doing university studies at the time.

I’ve taken up archery over the last year, I usually go at least once a week during the weekends.

How would you encourage other people with disabilities to get involved with snooker?

If you want to try snooker out, the WDBS is a good place to start. They have many classifications that allow for all disabilities. Go visit on one of their open days, speak with the coaches and organisers there, try to introduce yourself to other snooker players with disabilities and have a go. Also for your carer have them speak to other carers as well. They will get a bigger picture on how the WDBS works. It’s a friendly organisation.

 

Thank you to Christopher and we look forward to seeing him and everyone else again in 2021!

Steve Cartwright Q&A

Farnborough’s Steve Cartwright made his debut on the 360Fizz WDBS Tour back at the 2019 Northern Classic and claimed his first gold medal at the 2019 UK Disability Championship by coming through a 24-player field to win the Challenge Cup.

We caught up with the Group 4 player recently to learn more about his snooker journey so far and how ‘lockdown’ has been for him so far…

Hi Steve, how have you found the past six months during the coronavirus pandemic and have you been able to play at all?

Like most people I would expect, it has been a little frustrating, but I have a very positive attitude and a strong faith, so I was kept busy doing all those jobs that we all put off.

Yes I was able to play, but only once so far unfortunately. I popped in to my local club (Sovereign Snooker) to check what safety precautions they had in place and I had a quick practice.

How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you want to pick up a cue yourself?

My parents took me and my brother to Butlins every year from when I was 9 up until 15. I absolutely loved being able to play snooker, pool and table tennis as much as I want and have loved playing ever since.

You are a relative newcomer to the WDBS circuit having entered your first event in 2019, but have been a regular ever since. How did you get involved and how much have you enjoyed the competition?

A good friend at my club suggested I gave it a go. I have really enjoyed the tour, very well organised and all the organisers, venues staff and players and are very friendly. I have built some fantastic relationships with like-minded people.

Group 4 is among our biggest and most competitive classification groups on the Tour. How impressed have you been by the standard of players on the WDBS circuit?

I have to say the standard is very good and was one of the initial concerns of me joining the tour, as I believed it would have loads of ex-professionals knocking in high breaks continually.

There are some players who are very good, but none that I would be uncomfortable playing and in fact I look forward to playing them.

Most players probably don’t know of your disability (sensory neuropathy). Tell us about this condition and the effect this has on being able to play snooker for you…

My condition means the signals from my brain are damaged so they take longer to reach my legs and arms which has the effect of my body going beyond the normal positions so this damages my joints by hyperextending and breaking/dislocating joints.

This means when I play snooker just walking around the table is both extremely painful but also tiring. Balance is very difficult as I do not have a stable base and bridging over other balls is incredibly hard.

What are your off-table interests and hobbies? We have heard that you are rather handy with a golf club as well as a snooker cue!

Yes I used to be an 11 handicap at golf, but difficult now unless I am using a buggy.

I am a sports chaplain at the gym which I attend daily, when open. I also play table tennis with a group of friends from the church.

I am also a stamp / coin collector and like to complete jigsaws mostly on rainy days.

How would you encourage other people with disabilities to get involved with snooker?

I would strongly recommend anybody with a disability to get involved, the friendships you will make with people who know what your going through in their own unique way with a passion for snooker.

Yes you will encounter some testing times both physical and mental, but that makes us stronger as individuals and together we form a fantastic community of people who love snooker.

David Grant Q&A

In our latest Q&A we catch up with two-time Group 8 tournament semi-finalist David Grant to reflect upon what has been a life-changing year for him so far – and not because of the ongoing global pandemic…

Hi David, there is only one place to start with the news that – after what must have felt like a long wait – you recently received a successful kidney transplant. Tell us about how this came about and the difference this has made to you.

Yes, that is correct, I received a kidney transplant in early August. This occurred when I received a phone call from the transplant team in the early hours in the morning. I would undergo a number of tests to ensure my body is ready for transplant. If it wasn’t, I would be put on dialysis to make sure my body was in top condition for the operation.

Thankfully, the tests all came back absolutely fine and didn’t require further dialysis. The second I woke up from the transplant operation, I already felt a huge difference within my body even though I was still feeling groggy! It’s amazing what the human body can do.

How tough have the past three years been while you have undergone treatment and what have the biggest challenges been?

The whole ordeal has been tough as my only kidney was no longer functioning and diagnosed as final stage kidney failure.

Dialysis was able to keep me going until a suitable transplant was available. If dialysis didn’t exist, I wouldn’t be here today. The only downside was the physical and mental struggle of the dialysis due to the side effects after the treatment, and this was what I would have to endure three times a week, every five hours.

This also affected my snooker performance due to endurance of a competition or practice. I had to reduce my practice times because of the treatment.

Following your successful transplant, you are now planning to enter the British Transplant Games next year in Leeds. Tell us more about that.

The day after the operation, I contacted the Edinburgh team requesting to participate to compete in the Transplant games, as one of the events they had, is snooker.

My aim is to compete in the snooker event representing Edinburgh in hope of being successful in the event and hopefully bringing home a medal!

How much are you looking forward to getting back to a snooker table competitively and being able to properly prepare and practice for tournaments in the future.

I am very much looking forward to returning to snooker once I am no longer required to be under isolation. I was able to get two weeks practice in just before I go the kidney transplant. This was after five months away from being a table at a time and I was able to make consistent breaks of 30-79 on a five-star table based in Bathgate.

The second I am able to go out and practice, I will be practising four or five times for the first two weeks to catch up and settle down back to three times a week with three hours practice each session.

How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you decide it was a sport that you wanted to play?

I was interested in a very young age. At first it was a hobby as karate was my priority as I was competing nationally and internationally whilst representing Scotland. But after the diagnosis of kidney failure, I was focusing more on snooker because my body would no longer be able to keep up with the physical aspects of karate.

What was interesting was as I focused on snooker more, it became a dedication than a hobby when it turned out I was performing much better when I put practice in. I already made a century within a matter of weeks after my first WDBS event in Hull 2017.

What have been your most memorable experiences as a WDBS player so far?

Being selected as a player representative for Group 8 and seeing WDBS on television alongside the World Seniors Snooker Tour. So many memories to choose from but these two are my most memorable experiences.

What would your message be to Group 8 players who might have any issues that they would want to raise through you?

Please do not be shy in coming forward for any issues of matter you have, no matter how big or small. My role is to represent and support Group 8 and assist with any issues to be discussed with the Board of Directors.

Don’t be afraid to ask for me about any queries, whether big or small!

Away from the baize you have many other interests including karate as you have mentioned – tell us more about that.

I study karate on a daily basis, in my peak before my condition worsened, I was training five times a week, along with hitting the gym and doing 5km runs on a weekly basis.

Under isolation I have taken up cooking and have returned to PC gaming to help pass the time.

What would your message be to anyone with a disability who might be thinking of giving snooker a try and potentially coming to a WDBS Open Day or entering a competition?

Come on over! Every WDBS event organised is amazing to partake in, whether competition or an open day. Don’t be shy, WDBS is for everyone, you will feel very welcome.

 

Thank you to David for his time – we look forward to seeing him and all of our players in 2021!

WDBS Announcement – 2020 Events Cancellation

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has today announced that it has taken the difficult decision that no further events will take place during the remainder of 2020, with the aim of resuming competition from January 2021.

Following the cancellation of May’s Derby Open as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the lockdown measures introduced by the UK government, WDBS and its partners have since continued to regularly review the position in respect of future events as the crisis has developed.

Although we have been encouraged by the re-opening of some snooker facilities within England this month, there remain several challenges still to be overcome before large scale amateur snooker competitions, including WDBS events, can safely resume in the UK.

The health and safety of our players and officials is of paramount importance to us and WDBS events by their nature include players with ongoing serious health issues linked to their disability. With many players requiring carers or assistance, as well as the presence of officials and venue staff, it is very difficult at this time to enforce and respect appropriate social distancing in line with the current guidance issued by the English Partnership for Snooker and Billiards, in particular taking into account the size of seating areas typically found at snooker clubs.

For example, current guidance indicates that tables to be used are at least ‘one apart’ meaning that potentially at a venue housing 10 tables, only five would be available for use at any one time. This, and several other guidelines currently in place mean that it is not practical for tournaments the size of regular WDBS events to run for the foreseeable future.

We understand that some players have seen professional snooker being played on television recently and have asked why WDBS events cannot resume under the same conditions. Extensive procedures have been carried out by World Snooker Tour to make these events possible, including the testing of all personnel present for COVID-19 to minimise any risk of infection. The cost of this testing and the other safety procedures necessary is significant and is not something that WDBS is able to incur.

In all the circumstances, the WDBS board has therefore taken the unanimous decision that it would not be appropriate to stage further events this year. We understand that this decision will come as a disappointment to our players who are keen to return to competition as soon as possible, however, we are committed to protecting the health of our players and officials.

We would like to thank each of our venues, namely Redz Snooker Club, Cueball Derby and the Tradewell Snooker Club for their understanding and support and look forward to returning to all three venues as soon as we can.

2021

WDBS remains committed to disability snooker and to staging further competitions as soon as it is possible to do so safely. It is our intention at this time that WDBS will return in January 2021, subject to the continued relaxation of the lockdown restrictions that we are currently witnessing.

During the past five years WDBS has grown significantly since our first event back in 2015 and despite this unprecedented interruption of our competitions, we are all looking forward to returning stronger than ever in the New Year.

In the meantime, we will continue to keep our players and fans up to date with our preparations for the return of WDBS competition and we look forward to seeing everyone again as soon as possible.

WDBS & Me: Chris Hornby

This summer marks five years since the formation of World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) and today we continue our look back on the journey so far by hearing from Chris Hornby, one of the people to have been involved from the very beginning.

Having joined the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA) at the start of 2015 as its Sports Development Manager, Hornby was tasked with helping to re-energise snooker at amateur level – including disability snooker.

A Blank Canvas

Prior to the birth of WDBS, annual tournaments had been held for over 20 years by Disability Sports England, most recently in 2013 at the South West Snooker Academy. But with no event staged in 2014 and few other opportunities for people with disabilities to engage with snooker at any level, Hornby recalls how the initial WDBS team came together during the following year.

“I had been introduced at the Masters within my first weeks in the job to Tim Squires,” said Hornby. “He was a coach with experience of coaching people with disabilities and who would join the initial board. A few months later at the World Championship there was a further meeting with people who had previously been involved with disability snooker events, including Clive Brown who was clearly going to become a key member of the board with his tournament director experience.

“Together with my colleague Nigel Mawer QPM, Vice Chairman of the WPBSA, we both committed to be hands-on involved at this point, together with Tim and Clive. The board was joined by Bob Hill, at the time a qualified WPBSA coach with experience of coaching people with learning disabilities, as well as former Paralympian Jonathan Adams, who competed in the shot put event at the 2012 Games.”

With the team assembled, attention turned to laying down the foundations upon what Hornby describes as a ‘blank canvas’ with no established pre-existing administration in existence.

“It was unclear to us all without solid data if there would be enough demand for events,” recalls Hornby. “We decided to take a punt on putting on a trial event, with the emphasis on offering an open day purely for free coaching and practice for anyone with a disability.

“Jess Cook from Activity Alliance (then the English Federation for Disability Sport) was extremely helpful in the early stages of formation guiding us in the right direction and signposting key contacts. Through Activity Alliance we utilised an existing classification system to shape the first event.

“It was an exciting time to be able to grow something from scratch and five years on I am proud to have been involved in something so unique.”

To Gloucester

The trial event would ultimately become the 2015 Open Disability Snooker Championship, held at the South West Snooker Academy in November. For the team it was a voyage into the unknown in all aspects, with uncertainty as to the number of participants expected and from which classification groups they would represent.

“I remember sitting in my office thinking that we hadn’t got enough players to be able to separate the classification groups,” said Hornby. “Luckily, as would become a trend to this day, many players left it until late in the day and we had enough more players entered and we had the bare bones of an event.”

There was the added pressure of the planned filming of a piece by IMG to be broadcast during the subsequent UK Championship on the BBC, with no stone left unturned in the professionalisation of the event with bespoke t-shirts, medals, certificates and referees recruited to ensure its smooth running.

Ultimately however, the event would prove to be a real success and as Hornby recalls, came with a family feel that continues to this day.

“The open day went well and included a large group from Bristol brought by Bob Hill,” continued Hornby. “Their infectious smiles and the energy that they brought to the snooker room stood out. We had brought the World Snooker Championship trophy from the World Snooker office and the players loved getting their pictures with it.

“One thing we focused on – and still do to this day – is ensuring that each player is properly welcomed to the event as it may feel very daunting coming to your first event. Ruth Mawer (Chairman Nigel Mawer’s wife) was key in those early days and ensured that everyone was welcomed and comfortable within the venue. This is the basis to the family feel of the WDBS, getting to know individuals as people as well as players.

“The tournament itself was a success and IMG did a fantastic job of putting the piece together for television. What I hadn’t anticipated were the characters that we would meet, each with their own story and challenges, but fantastic attitudes to life and competitive edge. In particularly, Raja Subramanian who came all the way from India made the event international and gave it greater creditability. If the television piece hadn’t been so good, I don’t think that WDBS would have grown so much in those early days.”

While Subramanian had travelled across the world to compete however, his opponent in the Group 4-5 final was Tony Pockett, a player for whom his journey was far shorter, but just as monumental for him personally. Having heard about the event on local radio, Pockett entered the event at the last minute and would earn an emotional trip to York for the UK Championship with his performance.

“When he was presented with his medal at the Barbican Centre Tony started crying and was overwhelmed by it all,” recalls Hornby. “He came to York with his wife and he wrote to us afterwards thanking us and saying how much of a mental boost it had given him. He hadn’t played snooker for 10 years and it had been the first time he had been out of Gloucester for 30 years!

“This is what sport and snooker especially can deliver to people. Snooker is overlooked by many as a sport that can offer benefits to its participants but what WDBS has tried to offer its players over the last five years will hopefully at some point change a lot of people’s perceptions going forward.

Global Game

From the outset one of the long-term goals of WDBS has been to see snooker restored to its rightful place at the Paralympic Games, having been contested most recently at the Seoul games in 1988.

A key part of making this goal a reality is the further internationalisation of the WDBS Tour, which began with the introduction to the calendar of the Belgian Open in 2018 and having welcomed an increased number of players from outside of the UK, including Poland, India, Germany and Hong Kong.

Of course, the role played by China in the development of the professional sport over the past 15 years has been unprecedented and in 2018 Hornby, together with Nigel Mawer, visited the Chinese Paralympic Training Facility in Beijing, to meet with representatives of the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities (CASPD).

“Snooker in China in massive and they have fully embraced the sport,” continued Hornby. “The government and sporting authorities treat it with so much more respect than they do in the UK, investing and putting it into schools and higher education.

“We managed to get a meeting with (CASPD) and subsequently agreed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work together on future projects for players with disabilities. To see the size of the facilities was fascinating and the WPBSA committed to supply some tables for training. We worked closely with the Chinese Billiards and Snooker Association (CBSA) to ensure they were included in the agreement and could provide coaches if required.”

Each year CASPD organises a week of events to celebrate disability sport and offers a range of sporting activities. Part of this was to be a snooker open day at the CBSA Academy in Beijing, which took place while Chris and Nigel were present.

“It was arranged that CASPD would bus in two groups of around 20 people to the academy and we supplied five CBSA coaches who had been through the WPBSA coaching programme to deliver basic sessions,” added Hornby. “The majority of participants were new to playing the sport but quickly embraced it. CCTV 5, one of the main sport channels came and did some interviews and it was surreal to see our activities featured online the next day.

“The most memorable moment for me during the open day was a gentleman with one arm. He stood off from the tables and every time I tried to engage him to join the others on the table he declined pointing at his prosthetic. I remembered that I had brought a cueing aid device that one of our wheelchair players Mark Parsons had made for WDBS. I got the coach to show him how to use it and showed him pictures of players from the UK who play with one arm like Kal Mattu and John Teasdale and he eventually engaged.

“By the end we couldn’t get him off the table. We told him to keep the cueing aid, he was so happy and said he had enjoyed playing with the others. We told him when we return, we want him to be a top player and I hope that we will see him again in the future.”

To this day Chris remains a key part of the WDBS team and often a first point of contact for new players who contact us about competing in upcoming events, advising on classification groups and encouraging them to come along to weekends and take part.

Check back here at wdbs.info for more content this summer as we look back on our first five years…

William Thomson Q&A

Since 2016 William Thomson has established himself as one of the leading players of his WDBS Classification group, winning four main tournaments and reaching a further three finals to date.

We caught up with the reigning Stockport Open champion to talk about his snooker journey so far, including how former professional world champion has helped to improve his game…

Hi William, how have you found the past three months during these most unusual times?

Yes, it has been tough, I work with Serco Facilities Management at University Hospital Wishaw as a porter so being on the front line is hard. Then not having the snooker to go to after work has been strange. I’m sure my wife has found it difficult putting up with me. I’m not usually in the house every night, I’m usually at snooker most nights of the week.

Snooker is a big part of your life – how much have you missed being able to play?

Unfortunately, I don’t have my own table in my house. I practice and play at the Red Triangle Snooker Club in Cumbernauld on the match table or Fraser Patrick’s XingPai table. I think if you have a table in the house just now its priceless.

I also miss the friendships and laughs at the club as well not just playing. I would love to get back playing competitively but I think everyone agrees that safety comes first. But when we do I’m sure everyone will get a buzz from playing again.

Like Joe Hardstaff who we spoke to recently, you have been a regular at WDBS events for over four years since making your debut at the 2016 Manchester Classic. How much have you enjoyed competing during that time?

I love the competitions, that’s why I put the hours in and make the sacrifices I do. To go to competitions and play players with similar disabilities as myself is something I enjoy. I always look forward to WDBS competitions to play and to socialise with the players not just from my group but all groups.

Your Group is among the biggest and most competitive on the circuit, how impressed are you by the standard of players on the WDBS circuit?

Well the standard of play is getting higher every tournament. It was published last week the breaks the players have been getting in the tournaments and it’s not just how high the breaks are most of the players are doing it constantly. Some of these players have no arms, lost legs, are blind… It’s inspiring to watch the guys knock in long pots and breaks. I think as well with the release of the new world rankings it will make the tour more competitive.

In particular you have enjoyed a healthy rivalry with Daniel Blunn since your first event, a strong rivalry which has seen you both win matches against each other. What makes Daniel such a formidable opponent?

I really enjoy playing Daniel. We have had some good matches in the past, although I enjoy playing everyone on tour. Every player has a different style, different strengths and weakness, I enjoy having to adapt to how each plays and it excites me to face the different challenges that each brings to a match and each tournament.

How much has WDBS changed since your first event and what have you made of recent additions including our new ranking system?

When I first attended my first tournament players were in WDBS polo shirts and now we are fully dressed in waistcoats, dress trousers and shoes. It gives it more of a professional event feel, we were using club balls now every event we use match balls, new interactive scoreboards/pads are also great.

I think the new ranking system will give a bit of edge to the tournaments as well, everyone will want to play well in every tournament. There are also now chances to play in events like the WSF Open in Malta and at the Crucible.

Tell us about your disability and how this affects playing snooker for you.

I have CMT Type 1X, it effects my nerve endings and as a result I have muscle weakness in my hands and feet. I walk with orthotic splints on both legs. The weakness in my hands means I have changed how my bridge hand is, I mainly have problems bridging over balls as I have no strength in my fingers for a stable base.

My stance isn’t really affected due to my AFOs although I’m usually off balance when I walk round the table (usually mimicking a drunk man) but I assure you I don’t drink during tournament play. But overall, I think I’ve adapted well to my disability to enable me to play the best I can.

How did you first become interested in snooker and what made you want to pick up a cue yourself?

I was 11-years-old visiting my Aunt Dorothy in Peterborough before I went to Butlins in Skegness. Because she never saw me a lot, she took me into a sports shop and told me to pick anything I wanted. I picked up a cheap pool cue and she told me to put it back and she picked up a snooker cue instead and said get that one as your uncle John is paying for it anyway.

I went to Butlins, had two lessons from a pro there and played all week then won my first tournament at the end of that week before I came home. I then started playing in local snooker club, my mum and dad used to give me £3 every night to go practice. They said they preferred me going to snooker instead of hanging about street corners. At least they knew where I was.

You have been coached by former world champion Graeme Dott. What is that like and can you give us an example of a lesson that you have learned from him that has stuck with you?

Yeah I’m still getting coaching from Graeme. The first lesson I had with him was surreal. I go to his house and the next thing I’m in his snooker room getting a lesson from a former world champion. He’s such a down to earth guy as well.

My first lesson I was shaking like a leaf. Probably the most nervous I’ve been, but he put me at ease. I hit a few shots then he told me:

“I can’t teach you anything technically, you’re basically perfect. You cue and drive through the ball as well as anyone, you have a very strong game.”

To have a world champion telling me my game was strong and describing how he viewed my cue action, I can tell you I was in tears. Graeme has taught me more tactical and craft with the game. He describes things easily and makes sure it’s not too detailed, I remember him saying the game is difficult enough without making it more difficult.

As well as Graeme I have started working with Matt Andrews mentoring to help with my mental side of the game and I think that has given me more confidence to play the way I know I can play. It’s always good to have a former world champion and a mentor to have on the other side of a phone when your away on a tournament.

Away from WDBS you have also represented Scotland at European level and competed at Q School. What are your ambitions as a snooker player over the next few seasons?

My ambitions, improve my game, get better, learn and win tournaments, improve my rankings in both the Scottish Main Tour and WDBS Tour. Hopefully I can get into a position to get invited to more European events in the future.

What are your off-table interests and hobbies?

I love listening to music and I particularly like listening to Queen or 80s stuff. Friends are really important to me and I love socialising. I used to like playing golf before it all got too much for my body and I also was doing my teaching exams for playing keyboard before I stopped because of my hands. My interests now are being a dad to six-year-old Luca who also loves playing snooker taking him to the local snooker academy. He’s got the snooker bug I think.

How would you encourage other people with disabilities to get involved with snooker?

It’s so easy to get in touch with anyone from WDBS, through social media. It would be the best decision you would make. Players on the tour play for competition and also for friendships. It really is life changing for some players.

We wish William well and look forward to seeing him back on tour during the 2020/21 season. You can view all of his results at WDBS competitions so far here.

The Break Makers

Today we take a look back at the ‘break makers’ using statistics gathered from all of the World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) tournaments held to date.

The article is the first of a series of features looking back on the history of WDBS so far as we prepare to celebrate the fifth anniversary of our formation this summer.

Big Break

Since Raja Subramanian lit up the South West Snooker Academy with three breaks over 30, including runs of 57 and 53 during the same frame at our maiden event back in November 2015, there have now been over 400 ‘breaks over 30’ recorded across all eight classification groups by 73 individual players at WDBS tournaments.

The top ten breaks compiled to date are:

  1. Nick Neale – 92
  2. Dylan Rees – 87
  3. Nick Neale – 82
  4. Nick Neale – 82
  5. Shabir Ahmed – 81
  6. Nick Neale – 80
  7. Nick Neale – 80
  8. Dan Harwood – 77
  9. Nick Neale – 76
  10. Nick Neale – 75

It is Group 7 star and recently crowned WDBS Player of the Season 2019/20 Nick Neale who leads the way with seven of the ten highest WDBS breaks to his name, highlighted by a run of 92 crafted back at the 2018 Paul Hunter Disability Classic.

Hot on his heels is newcomer Dylan Rees, whose 87 came at our most recent event in Belgium back in March, while Shabir Ahmed (Group 8) and Dan Harwood (Group 6B) are also in the top ten.

By Player

With Neale dominating the list however, it is also interesting to look at the top 10 players as sorted by their best break to date to show a few of the other players to have established themselves as regular scorers in our competitions:

  1. Nick Neale – 92 (64 breaks)
  2. Dylan Rees – 87 (6 breaks
  3. Shabir Ahmed – 81 (30 breaks)
  4. Dan Harwood – 77 (14 breaks)
  5. Mike Gillespie – 72 (22 breaks)
  6. Paul Smith – 68 (18 breaks)
  7. William Thomson – 66 (28 breaks)
  8. Lewis Knowles – 61 (17 breaks)
  9. Andrew Galley – 60 (4 breaks)
  10. Mickey Chambers – 58 (15 breaks)

This list brings in a further two players from Group 7 with both Mike Gillespie and Paul Smith consistent scorers within the visually impaired category, while William Thomson and Mickey Chambers are the leading ambulant players, ahead of record champion Daniel Blunn, who is just outside of the top ten with 29 breaks (55 the highest) to his name.

By Group

  • Groups 1/2: Craig Welsh (47)
  • Group 3: Hannes Hermsdorf (53)
  • Group 4: William Thomson (66)
  • Group 5: Mickey Chambers (58)
  • Group 6A: Mohamed Faisal Butt (32)
  • Group 6B: Dan Harwood (77)
  • Group 7A: Gary Gallacher (43)
  • Group 7B: Nick Neale (92)
  • Group 8: Shabir Ahmed (81)

Of course, it is impossible to directly compare disabilities, hence the reason that players are split into their respective classification groups. What we can see however is the level of talent across all groups, with consistent scorers demonstrating how anyone can succeed at snooker, irrespective of their disability.

The wait goes on for the first WDBS century but with the many incredible players who compete on our circuit we look forward to celebrating our first centurion soon!

Please like and follow WDBS on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news and features about disability snooker.

Joe Hardstaff plays snooker shot

Joe Hardstaff Q&A

Boston’s Joe Hardstaff has been a mainstay on the 360Fizz WDBS Tour since his debut in 2016, reaching the final of the 2019 Northern Classic and previously winning the Challenge Cup tournament at the 2017 Manchester Classic.

We recently caught up with the Group 3 player to talk about the development of the WDBS circuit since his debut, his own snooker journey and how he is currently coping during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak…

Hi Joe, first of all how are you managing during these most unusual times with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

It is very strange. Like anything in life it’s about adapting and making the most of the opportunity this provides. I am the assistant head teacher of a special school that teaches pupils with social, emotional and mental health issues (SEMH) so we have been very busy providing support to the families and pupils. We have a few pupils that need to attend and we have a rota system for staff that means I am on campus one week out of three. The rest of the time I am working from home providing and supporting online video lessons for staff and pupils that can access it.

I do have two of my own children at home too, so it is nice to be able to spend time with them whilst they do their work from home. I am certainly not bored!

Do you currently have access to a snooker table? If not, how much do you miss playing our sport?

Unfortunately I do not have access to a snooker table. I keep trying to talk my wife into letting me build a big shed in the back garden but it’s not going to happen!

I am missing playing terribly. When the lockdown was only a few days in, I would often get the urge to play but then realise I can’t which is difficult. I have been watching old videos of professional matches which does help in one way with the snooker ‘fix’ but it also makes me want to play even more.

I am a competitive person, so to feed my competitiveness I have been playing online video games, which has helped.

You have been a part of WDBS almost since the beginning, having played since our second ever event in Manchester over four years ago. What have the events meant to you over that time?

I remember meeting you (Matt Huart) in the first event I went to, the welcome I received was almost overwhelming from all of the staff involved. Since then it has grown, developments have been made for the better and it feels like it has real status now in the game. For me personally, one of the most important developments was the classification changes. It has made our group (G3) very competitive and closely contested at every tournament. We all enter believing we can win it.

I really liked the change to formal attire. This just raises the image and brings it in-line with the professional men’s and women’s game.

The most recent addition of ranking points has added even more status to the competition. This will increase the participation and the want to win, again a huge development and a very welcome one from my perspective.

I like going away for the weekend to just focus on snooker. Being with like minded people, having a good catch up and playing some extremely competitive matches. My only disappointment is that I have not been to as many events as I’d like. My position at work makes it more difficult but I am hoping to go to more in the coming seasons.

What first attracted you to snooker and how did you get involved with the sport?

Seeing snooker on the TV when I was a young boy got me interested. I went to the local snooker club and had a go. I instantly fell in love with cue sports. It’s something that I can compete in against anyone.

Tell us about your disability and the impact that this has on your game…

I have a condition called Phocomelia and the deformation of my upper limbs is severe so most people look at me and think ‘really, this guy can play?’ then when I start to play they have utter respect as a player.  The mechanics of how I play are quite different in terms of arm movement and this is something that I work on a lot. As we all know, your cue action is the most important thing, and to get that as consistent as possible is a key part of playing well. I find shots difficult that require cueing over balls with a high bridge. I often use a shot in these situations that I call a ‘floater’. This is where I hold the cue in the air and play the shot without a bridge as such. Very difficult and quite inaccurate at times but it’s the best I can do. This is when I feel most at a disadvantage but fortunately these shots don’t need to be used too often.

I have started to use a ‘sock’ on my bridge arm. I have found that this gives me a consistent stroke especially in warmer conditions. I used to find it hard in the heat as my arm would sweat and become sticky. The sock has resolved this.

I don’t have a long reach either, so I have to use the rest quite a lot. This has its own difficulties as like most players I prefer to have my hand on the table to play shots.

I have had a little coaching but find that they can work on the usual things such as shot approach, aiming etc but when it comes down to it, I have to figure out a lot myself as most coaches have never come across a player like me. I understand the ‘key ingredients’ so try and apply them to how I play. I am a tweaker, and like to find ways of getting better.

As a Group 3 player you are part of a relatively small but competitive group with the likes of John Teasdale, Nigel Coton and Kal Mattu. How do you find the challenge of competing against these players?

As I mentioned earlier I think our group is hugely competitive. They play with one arm, I play with two half length arms but the difficulties we all have, I think, balance out. For example, they all use some sort of rest device as a bridge, I use my upper arm. My grip isn’t great as I don’t have a hand, they can all grip with a full hand. There cue action mechanics are quite conventional, mine isn’t.

I am really happy with the group as I think we all are. Yes it is quite small, usually four in the group but we all get along really well, they are a really nice group of people and like I said we could all win any one of the tournaments.

We see many players in the group using various implements to enable them to play. How inclusive is a sport like snooker for people with severe upper limb disabilities?

I think snooker is very inclusive as a sport for everyone. For those of us that have severe upper limb disabilities it is about how well you can adapt to using a cue. There are some implements that could make it easier but it’s about finding the right one to suit your needs. There are not a lot on the market to choose from.

I have considered going to my limb specialists and enquiring about an arm adaptation that may help but I like the feel of the cue on my arm, and I think an implement similar to a rest will take away that feel.

What do you like to get up to when not at the baize?

I am a family man first and foremost, so spending time with my two boys (11 and 16)  and my wife takes most of my time up. We like going for walks, days out to the national trust places, woodland areas and family attractions, things like that.

We also like spending time in the back garden in the evening with our fire pit, marshmallows, some music and a glass of wine.

My youngest has just set up a YouTube channel – Happy Cactus, whilst in quarantine and because I have the skillset I have been roped in to editing the videos. I have appeared in some too!

It is great fun actually and a good skill to teach him.

We have seen your sons at a number of tournaments, do they play the sport?

Yes they both do now. The oldest one wants to join a local team and get playing in the league, so that will be nice, but he plays football at a good level and has aspirations to play professionally in America over the next couple of years, so most of his time revolves around training. The youngest is still getting to grips with the basics but really enjoys it, which is nice.

Photo of Joe Hardstaff and his son with medal

What message would you have for other people out there with disabilities who might be considering getting involved with WDBS?

Go on the website, read about it all. Sign up to the facebook page and keep in touch with what is going on. Then if you want to get involved in a tournament but are not sure what it will be like in reality, reach out to people on social media and ask to talk to someone. I’m sure they will be happy to give you a good idea of what it is like from entering the tournament, getting a hotel, the venues, food and drink, the evenings, costs, all the things you may have questions about. I’d be very happy to answer any questions about a tournament weekend from a players perspective.

You may be worried about the standard and ask yourself what if I’m not good enough?

Well there are some very good players, and my advice is you won’t know until you try. Even if you turn up and get a good lesson in how to play and you lose all your games, at least you know what you will need to do to compete. You may turn up and win, who knows until you have a go. But let’s not forget that for most the taking part is important and you want to win, but the social aspect is equally as important. I guarantee you will meet people that inspire you, you will get to know them and become friends.

Image of snooker balls

New Ranking System Launched for Disability Snooker

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has today announced the introduction of a new world ranking system for players competing on the 360Fizz WDBS Tour from the start of the 2020/21 season.

To include individual ranking lists for each of the main WDBS Classification Groups, the system will see players earn ranking points based upon their finishing position at designated ranking tournaments.

For the first time all players with disabilities will have the opportunity to gain a world ranking, adding an intriguing extra element to tournaments where players will battle not only to become champion at that event, but also to progress up their ranking list.

As well as the honour of achieving a high ranking within their respective classification group, there will also be a practical benefit for players to being highly ranked. The system will make it possible for WDBS to seed players at events, helping to lessen the chances of there being a “top-heavy” group under the previous random draw policy.

It is also intended that the ranking list will be used as a future basis for event qualification, such as for the WDBS Champion of Champions.

WDBS Rankings – Key Facts

  • Separate ranking lists will operate for the following Classification Groups:
    • G1/2, G3, G4, G5, G6A, G6B, G7 and G8
  • Rankings will operate on a two-year rolling system, with points dropping off and being replaced by points earned at new events. View the cut-off schedule.
  • Ranking points will be awarded in line with the WDBS Ranking Points Schedule.
  • The Welsh Open, Champion of Champions and Disability Tour Championship have been designated as non-ranking events.
  • Players must complete at least one match during a tournament that they have entered to be eligible to receive ranking points.
  • Players who have not competed in an event during the previous two years will be removed from the ranking list.

The inaugural world ranking lists which we have published today are made up of points retrospectively added to tournaments held during the past two seasons.

A total of 166 players are included across all of the ranking lists, with Group 8 most strongly represented by its 36 players who have competed during the past two seasons.

View the new ranking lists via the WPBSA Tournament Manager HERE.

Neale Honoured as 2019/20 WDBS Player of the Season

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is today delighted to announce that Nick Neale has been selected as this year’s winner of the Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season award.

First introduced in 2019, the award recognises the outstanding contribution of one of our players each season, taking into account a wide-range of factors including on-table results, general conduct and contribution to WDBS outside of our tournaments.

Following a highly competitive season which has seen the selected players win no fewer than 24 titles between them over the past 12 months, the WDBS team had an extremely difficult decision to make in respect of this year’s winner – with Neale ultimately emerging victorious.

On table, Neale has enjoyed another extremely successful season during which he remained unbeaten within his own classification group. He also claimed victory at the mixed classification Welsh Open competition in Cwmbran last August and with his consistently high scoring continued to set the highest standard at WDBS competitions.

In addition to his success at our events, Neale also represented WDBS with distinction at the World Snooker Federation Open in Malta this January, the world’s premier tournament for amateur players. Having won two of his three round-robin matches, he then took eventual runner-up and leading amateur star Iulian Boiko to a deciding frame, narrowly losing 3-2 in the knockout rounds. During the event he also provided support and guidance to the other WDBS players competing in the tournament.

The 47-year-old also reached the semi-finals of the World Seniors 6-Red World Championship qualifying event in Sheffield only last month, notably defeating former English Amateur Championship finalist Wayne Townsend in the quarter-finals.

As his prize Neale will be presented with a set of 1G Aramith snooker balls and a keepsake trophy in recognition of his achievement. He succeeds last year’s recipient of the award Daniel Lee as Player of the Season.

On receiving the award, Neale said: “I would like to thank the Board for voting for me for this award and also to congratulate all of the other nominated players, who I am sure all of them were more than capable of winning this award.

“I would like to thank all of the players across the eight categories on a great job. I would urge all other players out there with a disability who haven’t tried to play to check out the WDBS website to try and play in these great events.

“I would also like to thank my family and friends for standing by me and making me play this game again.”

WDBS would like to congratulate all of the players who made the shortlist on their achievements this season.

Nominations by group:

Group 1/2: Tony Southern

Group 3: Nigel Coton

Group 4: Daniel Blunn

Group 5: Mickey Chambers

Group 6A: Mohamed Faisal Butt

Group 6B: Leroy Williams

Group 7: Nick Neale

Group 8: Shabir Ahmed