Category: Player Features

Nigel Brasier Q&A

Next month’s 360Fizz UK Disability Snooker Championship marks the first anniversary since Nigel Brasier joined the World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) circuit.

Having since established himself as a regular competitor on tour, this year’s event in Northampton will be extra special for the Spalding native as its Friday Open Day will be supported by a charity close to his heart, the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).

We recently caught up with Nigel to talk about his love for snooker and the importance of both the MNDA and WDBS to him.

Hi Nigel, how excited are you that the MNDA will be supporting us next month in Northampton?

I am very excited and extremely proud that MNDA is supporting the 360 Fizz UK Disability Snooker Championship in Northampton. I have put a lot of time and effort into raising awareness and much needed funds for MNDA and this competition is a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of such a horrific disease.

The event marks the first anniversary of your WDBS debut – what has WDBS meant to you over the last 12 months?

Yes, Northampton 2018 is where it all began for me. A chance meeting with [Group 3 player] Joe Hardstaff in a club in Boston, Lincolnshire, is where the seed was sown. I got talking to Joe and he told me all about WDBS and here I am!

WDBS is just like one big family, I will never forget how welcome I was made to feel on my first day at Barratts Snooker Club. It was mind-blowing to see so many people with various disabilities enjoying each other’s company whilst playing the game they love. Snooker helps me focus and takes my mind off the illness I have and WDBS has given me even more opportunities to do this.

How long have you played snooker and what is it that you most enjoy about our sport?

I have been playing snooker since I first had a 6ft table in my bedroom when I was eight years old. My passion for the game started when I first saw my hero Alex Higgins play. I love the buzz of trying to pot as many balls as I can, although I do like a good safety battle too and really enjoyed my match against ex-professional Dean Reynolds in Hull.

What has been the impact of MND upon your snooker?

I have a slower version of Motor Neurone Disease called Primary Lateral Sclerosis (PLS). The nerves from the brain and spinal cord stop working properly, which causes muscle waste and eventually you become locked in your own body, it’s only the mind that will function normally. The impact this has on my snooker so far is that both my legs have become weak and I walk with metal splints to keep my feet up. I suffer from fatigue and also fasciculation (muscle twitching all over my body). This requires 110% concentration and is not visible when I play.

Of course, you are no stranger to snooker competitions and you have run events in the past to raise awareness of the MNDA…

The MNDA has supported me over the years with my quality of life because I do not work and has also provided me with huge support for my ever-growing fundraising activities.

Every October I organise a fundraising snooker competition in aid of the MNDA which will reach its fifth year on 12th October 2019. One night after a league match, I had a weird dream of holding a fundraising competition. The next morning, I put pen to paper and with support of friends and members of our Spalding & District Snooker League my fundraising was born.

So far I have raised approximately £12,000 in four years. Each year I have 42 entries and start play from 9.00am until the finish. It’s hard work but worth every effort to help others like myself and their families.

What are your future goals at WDBS events?

It would mean the world to me if I could win a competition or two. WDBS has become like a snooker family to me and from the first day I walked into Barratts last year the friendship has grown and grown.

I play to win but the social and friendship side are the real winners for me.

Nigel will be among those in action at the 360Fizz UK Disability Championship from 20-22 September 2019. Entry for the event is still open HERE.

David Moore Q&A

Last month’s season opening Humber Classic competition saw six players walk away with main event honours across a range of physical and intellectual disability tournaments.

Perhaps the most remarkable success however was that enjoyed by Southampton’s David Moore, who claimed his maiden WDBS Group 5 victory, just months after a serious accident at work that left him with serious injuries including a fractured skull.

We caught up with David recently to look back on his success and his love of snooker…

David, you have made the perfect start to the new 360Fizz WDBS Tour season with your victory in Hull. How satisfying was it to finally break your duck on the circuit and claim your first title, particularly having missed out in two previous finals?

It was an extremely satisfying weekend for me to get the win, particularly after a long journey up to Hull from Southampton via train, underground and taxi. I felt very relaxed the whole weekend, the club [Tradewell Snooker Club] and its staff were very nice and welcoming.

It didn’t cross my mind as I got the final that it would be my third chance to try and finally win a tournament. But hopefully now I will kick on and win a few more!

Your success was of course all the more remarkable as it came off the back of a difficult few months for you after the accident that you suffered at work shortly after competing in Bruges. Tell us about the accident and the impact that had upon you.

The accident was an extremely difficult time, more so for my family as I don’t remember much of it at all. I had two ambulances, a fire engine and a helicopter out to me.

The first few days I had no idea who my own family were. I fractured my skull and broke my collarbone and shoulder. I am a lucky man and if I am honest the thing that is now affecting me the most is not being able to drive for six months.

At least when I got home from the hospital, I had a lot of snooker on the TV [during the Betfred World Championship] to keep me sane!

Was there a time that you thought you might not be able to play snooker again?

There was a lot of talk at hospital about whether I would be able to ever play again. My wife Lisa and my mum we’re very concerned because they know how much snooker means to me.

I never worried that I would try to play no matter what. When I got out of hospital I tried to play with my arm in extreme pain and hardly able to move. I didn’t pot anything, but I knew I’d get back to it.

How did you first become interested in snooker and why you still enjoy it today?

 I’ve loved snooker from as long as I can remember. My dad was a massive fan and a good player. He had so many trophies and whenever it was on TV, he would have it on, so I quickly caught the bug from him.

He taught me how the play snooker on a pool table at first. He always beat me and said it was the best way to learn. I still have a lot of his ways even now, not only the good habits as he hit the cue ball hard and played a lot side which is something that I do!

Unfortunately, he died when he was 41 and that’s why I still play, I think. He played for the team that I now captain, I think he’d be proud, our team has gone all the way to the top league in Southampton and won many cups.

How did you come across WDBS and how does your disability affect your snooker?

I first saw WDBS on TV at the World Championship in Sheffield. I was rained off at work as a window cleaner and I thought that it was something I would like to try. Seeing how players play the game with their disabilities was inspiring.

I have a disability called Poland syndrome which means from birth I have one hand a lot smaller than the other. This affects grip and carrying things. I also have no pectoral muscle in the same side of the body and that stops me from doing a lot of things. For example, I struggle with strength so sometimes I under hit shots and sometimes over hit which can be annoying!

Due to bullying when I was eight, I also lost the vision in my right eye so could probably play in another group but to me the Poland syndrome affects my snooker more.

It has been nearly three years since you made your debut at the 2016 Open Disability Snooker Championship in Gloucester. What have been the biggest changes that you have seen to tour since?

WDBS is getting bigger and bigger. The tour is now going to other countries and there are more and more opportunities to play.

It feels so professionally run. There are very good referees on the tour, a tournament director and the online coverage it gets is so good now. But most of all the players are getting better and more and more people coming to the events.

What is your favourite part of playing in WDBS events?

I love the fact that me and my wife have made new friends from this. I love playing snooker but the whole weekend is amazing.

In the morning I am having battles with people on the table and in the evening with the same people we’re out enjoying different restaurants and having a laugh.

Do you have any particular targets for the rest of the season?

I just want to improve. I’m a lucky man to still be able to play after the accident so I won’t beat myself up if this is my only win, but I will try my very best to win again.

After getting to the final of the Champion of Champions last year that’s definitely going to be a aim for me every season.

What would you say to people with disabilities who might be considering entering a WDBS event?

I would urge anyone considering it to just do it. The events are so much more than snooker, providing an opportunity to meet an amazing bunch of people.

The organisers are so friendly and will help in every way they can. Don’t get me wrong it’s competitive but winning isn’t everything and it is suitable for people of any ability.

The next WDBS event will be next month’s Welsh Open which is open to players from all WDBS classification groups. Enter now online: www.wdbs.info/tournament-entry/welsh-open-2019

2018/19 World Disability Billiards and Snooker Season Review

Last month’s Derby Open at the Cueball Derby signalled the end of the 2018/19 World Disability Billiards and Snooker season; the biggest and busiest campaign yet.

Starting back in July, the circuit visited several venues in the UK and beyond with a record number of tournaments hosted and entries taking part. Here we look back on how the season unfolded and what the main talking points were…

Groups 1 & 2

New and familiar faces triumphed in the competitive wheelchair section, but the star performer throughout the year was Daniel Lee, who added a trio of titles to his portfolio.

Londoner Lee started off by claiming the curtain-raising 6-Red Welsh Open in Cwmbran; an event open to WDBS competitors from all classifications. At the time, by his own admission Lee’s best tournament victory in snooker, he ousted Aslam Abubaker in a thrilling all-wheelchair final that was a fine showcase for the group.

Further honours came at the inaugural staging of the Champion of Champions and when he defended the Northern Classic in the new year. Collectively, these efforts saw him named as the first WDBS Vic Hartley Player of the Year at the Winter Garden in Sheffield during this spring’s World Professional Snooker Championship.

Elsewhere in the division, Abubaker and Tony Southern both claimed maiden main event gold after being pipped in the past. Abubaker won the Open Disability Championship when he defeated Shahab Siddiqui in the final, while Southern reversed last year’s outcome after getting the better of host nation native Kurt Deklerck at the Belgian Open in Bruges.

Groups 3, 4 and 5

Due to increased numbers and re-structuring, ambulant players contested in both individual and multi-group competitions throughout the year. Despite the changes, several of the circuit’s big names continued to collect top honours.

One of the most intriguing sagas has been the ongoing rivalry between Daniel Blunn and William Thomson. At the Open Disability Championship, Thomson made it three out of three final wins against his adversary, but at the Champion of Champions a few weeks later Blunn ended that hoodoo.

Blunn bolstered his CV yet again in the new year when eliminating the challenge of new finalist Peter Yelland to win the Northern Classic at the Hazel Grove in Stockport and then defending the Belgian Open at the Trickshot after a victory over another former champion in Raja Subramanian from India. These wins mean Blunn now has a record eight WDBS main event titles.

Mickey Chambers and David Church also increased their title tally; Chambers defeated Church in the Northampton final and David Weller to retain the Northern Classic, while Church became the Group 4/5 Champion of Champions victor when he quashed late replacement David Moore’s hopes in the climax.

There was, however, a new addition to the roll of honour when John Teasdale won the Group 3 title in Stockport after prevailing over fellow first-time main event finalist Joe Hardstaff. In a keenly contested encounter, Teasdale chalked up three consecutive frames from 2-0 down to emerge successful.

Group 6

Five different players won main event gold throughout the season in the learning disabilities category.

Peter Geronimo announced himself on the scene by claiming the first Group 6 exclusive event at the Humber Classic on debut in August. The focus, though, has been on serial winner Daniel Harwood who scooped a quartet of triumphs at the Open Disability Championship, Champion of Champions and Hull Open, before the Northern Classic in the new year became his seventh career WDBS title overall.

From November’s Hull Open onwards the Group 6 division was split into two sub-categories – 6A would represent players with learning disabilities whilst 6B for those with autism spectrum disorder. Mike Busst was the first player to take advantage of this new opportunity when he defeated Faisal Butt to taste glory in East Yorkshire. Butt recovered from that setback, though, to avenge his defeat to Buust at the Northern Classic and then by seeing off David Mac in the final of the Southern Classic too.

Also, in Swindon, Leroy Williams bettered the three previous final appearances he had made earlier in the season when eventually defeating debutant Christopher Goldsworthy in an engrossing 6B final at Jesters Snooker Centre. It was Williams’ second WDBS title.

Group 7

Nick Neale was undoubtedly the star performer in the visual impairments classification as he collected four main event titles.

The Group 7 season started at the Barratts Club in Northampton where Paul Smith earned his fourth career WDBS title after overcoming maiden finalist, Ron Allen, in the final of the Open Disability Championship. Later in the campaign, though, Neale would surpass Smith’s tally to become the most decorated player in the division.

Neale’s winning streak began in Gloucester when he got the better of rival Smith in the Champion of Champions final. He backed that up with triumphs at the Hull Open (defeating David Baker in the final) and then the Southern Classic (defeating Allen in the final) to make it a high five of titles at this level. He finished his campaign on a positive, too, by defending the Derby Open (7B) against former winner Mike Gillespie in an entertaining final that went to a deciding frame. Gillespie was Neale’s fourth different final opponent in as many competitions.

Group 7 competitors were divided into two separate categories for the first time in Derby, depending on the severity of their impairment. The format yielded a new champion as Gary Gallacher defeated Bob Craft to become the inaugural 7A winner.

Group 8

Two new champions were discovered in the hearing impairments category, but the season revolved around Shabir Ahmed who made all five Group 8 finals; winning three of them.

Starting in Northampton, Ahmed denied debut finalist Nikolas De Whytell to win the Open Disability Championship. His momentum, however, was halted by Lewis Knowles at the following month’s Champion of Champions. Having suffered a trio of final disappointments at the hands of Ahmed in the past, an epic 5-4 victory over his rival in Gloucester was certainly a sweet relief for Knowles.

Ahmed bounced back from this loss when overcoming debutant Mick Chew at the Hull Open and then resuming his rivalry – and success – with Knowles at the Southern Classic in Swindon. Looking like business as usual in Derby, though, Ahmed was stunned by newcomer Nicholas Cash, who produced an upset to overhaul him in the final. Earlier in the event Cash had also eliminated Knowles and a former WDBS main event winner in Blake Munton.

His achievements on the circuit gained Ahmed cross-sport recognition as he was nominated and came third at the 2018 Deaf Sports Personality of the Year Awards. Contesting alongside Lee, Blunn and Neale, Ahmed will appear at the Crucible Theatre during this August’s ROKiT World Seniors Snooker Championship for a dedicated session of play that will highlight and promote disability snooker.

A New Campaign Awaits…

We don’t have to wait much longer until the new 2019/20 360Fizz World Disability Billiards and Snooker season gets underway with the Humber Classic taking place at the Tradewell Snooker Club in Hull from 28-30 June. For the first time, the popular venue will host a WDBS event that is open to players with physical disabilities (Groups 1-5), as well as welcoming back entrants with learning disabilities (Group 6).

Lee Crowned 2018/19 WDBS Player of the Season

Daniel Lee has been named as the inaugural winner of the Vic Hartley WDBS Player of the Season award.

Named after the late Vic Hartley, a long-time referee and friend of WDBS, the honour was bestowed upon wheelchair player Lee during this year’s Disability Snooker Day celebrations at the Sheffield Winter Garden earlier this week.

As well as the prestige of becoming the first WDBS Played of the Season, Lee was also presented with a unique cue case by Rob Reed of RR Cue Cases. The stunning case was made in WDBS colours and carries design features including the WDBS logo, the player of the season wording and most importantly, Lee’s name across its handle.

The award follows a successful season for Group 2 player Lee, who has won two titles in his group (Northern Classic and Champion of Champions), as well as the mixed classification Welsh Open event last July at which he emerged victorious from a field of 55 players with all disabilities.

Off the table Lee has also been a fantastic ambassador for disability snooker throughout the season and has been heavily involved with work at Stoke Mandevile, the home of the Paralympic Games, to provide more opportunities for disabled people to play snooker. He recently qualified as a Level 1 WPBSA World Snooker coach and provided support at the 2019 Inter-Spinal Unit Games.

We would like to thank everyone who attended the day, including Dawn and Ann who are the daughters of Vic Hartley, as well as Rob Reed for the fantastic prize donated.

Nominations by group:

Groups 1/2: Daniel Lee
Group 3: Daniel Blunn (nb: competed in this group for the majority of the season)
Groups 4/5: Mickey Chambers
Group 6A: Michael Farrell
Group 6B: Dan Harwood
Group 7: Nick Neale
Group 8: Shabir Ahmed

Simon Berridford and Liam Bairstow smiling

Corrie’s Bairstow to play at Humber Classic

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) is delighted to confirm that British soap star Liam Bairstow will be among the players competing at next month’s Humber Classic tournament in Hull.

Liam is best known for his role as Alex Warner in ITV’s Coronation Street, after he famously became the first actor with Down’s Syndrome to be cast in the world’s longest running soap opera just over three years ago.

Away from the studios Liam is also a keen snooker fan and first met the WDBS team last May when he visited the World Championship to watch Mark Selby take on John Higgins on final day. Having kept in touch ever since, we are now looking forward to welcoming Liam to what will be our first-ever weekend competition exclusively for players with learning disabilities.

“I am really looking forward to this event,” said the Bradford-based actor. “I have been a fan of snooker since I have been watching Ronnie O’Sullivan who is my favourite.

“It was amazing to visit the Crucible last year because so many people were there. It was really exciting to meet legends like Stephen Hendry and John Parrott who I remember watching play.

“It was also a lot of fun as we had a challenge in the Cue Zone where if a boy beat me he would get a tour of Coronation Street and he did, so I was able to take him round the set.”

As well as being able to pick up a cue for himself, Liam is looking forward to being able to meet new people during the event which will be held at Hull’s Tradewell Snooker Centre from 17-19 August.

“I love socialising and meeting new people,” added Bairstow. “It’s so nice to be able to talk to different people and then keep in touch through social media. I love Facebook and Twitter to be able to let my friends know when I will be on TV.”

Of his fellow cast members at Corrie, Liam identifies Charlie de Melo, who plays lawyer Imran Habeeb in the soap as a talented snooker player on a set which has welcomed the ‘Weatherfield Snooker Hall’ as a recent addition to the iconic street.

As for his own hopes in Hull, Liam is keeping his cards close to his chest but says that it would give him ‘a very warm feeling’ if he is able to take home a medal from the event.

Entries for the Humber Classic remain open with players with all disabilities welcomed to our free Friday Open Day, ahead of the two-day tournament for our Group 6 players.

Download the entry form now: https://www.wdbs.info/event/humber-classic-2018-group-6/

Tony Southern playing snooker shot using rest

Tony Southern Q&A

A name who will be familiar to most with an interest in disability cue sports, Tony Southern will be among those in action at next month’s J&S Trading Northern Classic, to be held at Preston’s Elite Snooker Club for the first time.

We caught up with Tony recently to preview the tournament and look back at his time in the sport…

Hi Tony, we begin 2018 with the J&S Trading Northern Classic in Preston. How much are looking forward to the competition?

Yes, I am really looking forward to the first event of the year. I played a few pro-ams at the Elite Snooker Club back in the early 1990’s when I was at university in Preston, so it will be good to see how the club has changed.

Tony Southern shakes hands with Craig Welsh

Tony reached the final of the 2017 Manchester Classic, narrowly losing out to Craig Welsh

You entered your first WDBS competitions in 2017, notably coming so close to winning in Manchester, losing on a re-spotted black. Can you go one better this year?

Hopefully! After a break from snooker due to injury and other priorities it was good to be back, and Craig Welsh played really well in the event and to beat me in the final.

Of course you are no stranger to snooker having competed in events for nearly 35 years – how do you reflect on your time in the sport?

I’ve achieved a lot since my first national win in 1985 at age 16! I’ve won 24 national disabled championships under the old BSAD/DSE framework (four of which were classed as World Opens when World Snooker was previously involved in the 1990’s), I still hold the highest event break of 87 and had a decent amateur career against able bodied players. But all of that was as a standing player and since I’ve comeback I’m playing from a chair, as that what I’ve done in my other cue sports to good effect.

Tony Southern plays snooker shot against Glyn Lloyd watched by Vic Hartley

Tony plays a shot as opponent Glyn Lloyd and referee Vic Hartley look on

What has competing in snooker events done for your life in general, what positive effects has this had physically and mentally? 

I have made lots of new friends, and it is always nice to see some old faces, and in some cases very old (Glyn Lloyd and referee Vic Hartley) still involved! I have got to know a lot of the top pros as well and travelled the length and breadth of the country. It will be good to play my first international snooker event in Belgium, after playing American pool around the world the last 10 years.

Tell us about your disability, how does this affect your snooker? Has this changed over your career and what challenges has this given you?

I have cerebral palsy which affects my legs, as mentioned above most of my snooker career was spent playing standing up, but as you get older, muscles get weaker and I started using a chair for my other cue sports in 2006. It made sense to do this for snooker too, as I was getting too fatigued walking around table.

Tony Southern places cue ball

Tony in WDBS action at the 2017 Open Disability Snooker Championship in Wolverhampton

You had spoken of retirement in 2017, but posted recently that your health has improved and you are looking forward to continuing to play for the foreseeable future. What are your goals for 2018 and beyond?

I was diagnosed with two prolapsed discs in my back in 2016, which meant I was having real issues with bending to play any shots, even from a chair. It cost me matches and several titles in my other cue sports, so was getting really down about my future prospects, as I always want to be competitive.

However, a series of treatments on my back in 2017 and a recent knee operation have really helped, and I’m now the president of the British Pool Federation, looking after the interests of the American Pool players in the UK, both at a professional and amateur level. So if I have to be at events in an administrative role, why not play as well!

Tony Southern and Andy Johnson point at balls arranged to look like Belgian flag

Tony will be competing at the inaugural Belgian Open in March (pictured with Andy Johnson)

How important is the social aspect of WDBS events, both catching up with old friends and meeting new people?

It is really important, I’m one of the few left from the mid 1980’s still competing and it’s nice to see the older players and referees still going. It is also good to see younger players grow and improve, I recall seeing Daniel Blunn as a young teenager many years ago and telling his father that he was very good and would win lots of titles, which of course he has done!

What message would you have for anyone out there considering entering a WDBS event for the first time?

Basically, come and give it a go, no matter what your standard of play. It is almost guaranteed that your level will improve just being around the WDBS scene and utilising the coaching days, and competing against players on a level playing field in terms of disability. Three days of fun, coaching and events is a great experience for all involved.

There is still time to join Tony and enter the J&S Trading Northern Classic from 2-4 February 2018. Click HERE to learn more and download the full entry form.

Nick Neale plays snooker shot

Neale Celebrates 147 Break

Last month WDBS player Nick Neale achieved a special milestone as he made a maximum 147 break for the first time in his career during practice.

The Birmingham potter, who competes as a Group 7 player at WDBS events following the loss of his sight in one eye at the age of 15, has stepped up his practice time in recent months and is ‘over the moon’ that his hard work is already starting to pay off.

“I had been close to making a maximum before,” said Neale. “I knew that something was coming, not necessarily a 147 but something big.”

“I have been practising a lot and on the day I started to pot a few balls, during a proper frame not an exercise like a line-up, and I got to about ten reds and ten blacks when my girlfriend said that I was on a 147 so I thought that I might as well go for it at that point.

“The black from the last red was probably the best pot I played, stunned it up for the yellow and then with all of the colours on their spots, you don’t really miss them and I think that every ball went into the centre of the pocket. I was dead straight on the final black, I didn’t want to roll it in case I got a kick so I played a little soft stun and it went in. It was a good feeling because it’s something that you always strive for as a snooker player.”

Nick Neale with Allan Morley

Neale, who reached the final of his first WDBS event almost a year ago at the 2016 Hull Open, spent nearly ten years away from the sport after the loss of his sight and only recently decided to start playing full-time again, practising for six days a week. Chasing a first WDBS title, he also hopes to be able to take on able-bodied players in other competitions over the coming years.

“I would like to just to see what I can become again,” explained Neale. “I would like to enter some of the seniors events, professional competitions of possible and see if I can do alright in them. I’m never going to win one but if I could win a couple of matches in the amateur rounds it would be nice to be able to play a top pro and I believe I can do that. Why not? It all depends on the draw because there are a lot of amateurs there like us who are going for the fun and to enjoy it.”

Neale will return to WDBS action at next month’s 888lcd.co.uk Hull Open and entries for the Group 7-8 event remain open. There will also be a Group 6 event for players with learning disabilities, to be held alongside our regular open day of people with any disability.

Learn more about the 888lcd.co.uk Hull Open.

David Church Q&A

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has welcomed new players from across the country to events in 2017, including Norwich cueist David Church.

Having so far competed in both the Manchester Classic and Welsh Open since joining the WDBS field, Church is now preparing for an assault on this year’s Open Disability Snooker Championship, as well as a special trip to Germany later this month for the professional Paul Hunter Classic event won last season by Mark Selby.

We caught up with him recently to talk about his WDBS experiences so far and in particular how snooker has played a crucial role in helping him to manage depression in recent years.

David, you are currently getting ready for next month’s Open Disability Snooker Championship in Wolverhampton, how much have you enjoyed the events that you have played to date?

Quarter-final – with Daniel Blunn

The events I’ve played in have gone very well in my opinion. At my first tournament in Manchester I was surprised how many people with numerous disabilities play the game, not only play, but to a very good standard. I was welcomed by everyone, players, staff and the tournament directors.

I felt I had a great tournament in Manchester, winning my group to reach the knockout rounds and then winning a tough semi-final against Andy Johnson. At 1-1, in the deciding frame, I was 39 behind with 59 on. I thought that was the end of my tournament because my mindset wasn’t there, but somehow my safety game got me into the final. However, I thought that I did well considering it was my first WDBS tournament and I was so nervous as a tournament environment was new to me.

In Wales I was amazed by how many entries we had from all eight groups and the standard everyone played at. I had the high break of 48 which would have been more if I hadn’t had a kick on the green, as everyone knows about in the WDBS! I was seeded no.1 for the knockout stages and my game felt great, however I ran into a very good player, Daniel Blunn, in the quarter-finals who fully deserved the title and the match against me.

I thoroughly enjoy the events, so much that I get so pumped up and practice hard and eat well for the tournaments.

With ref Sarah McManus and partner Olivia

How did you hear about WDBS?

I was playing for Norfolk in the county championships and I got talking to EASB referee Sarah McManus who said I would be eligible to play and so I went for it. It was the best thing that I’ve ever done.

You have impressed in both of the events that you have entered so far, reaching one final and one quarter-final, as well as making the high break in Wales. Can you go all the way and take a title now?

I’ve performed well and I have no doubts that I can win a title. I am not being cocky or arrogant, I just know when I’m at one with the game, I know what to do and do it to what I think is a reasonably high standard. My high break is 82 and I’m getting closer to my first century with help from the SightRight Elite Academy and my coach Stephen Feeney. My dream is to be world disability champion.

Tell us about your disability, how does this affect your snooker?

With former WDBS champion Nigel Coton

My disability is Moebius Syndrome. It is a rare disability affecting the sixth and seventh cranial nerve in the brain which causes facial paralysis and where the muscles in the face and the body aren’t as strong as someone without the disability. At the time I was born, both I and my sister, who has the same disability as me, were the first siblings to have that specific disability in the U.K.

Also the disability that I use to play in the WDBS events is a severe impairment in my leg due to a car accident after walking home from snooker, when two cars crashed and ploughed me through a brick wall. I broke my tibia so as a result I had to have surgery to put a metal rod in to support my leg. This causes constant pain and my balance isn’t as good anymore, which cause me difficulty when playing certain shots.

What role has snooker and the WDBS has played in helping you cope with the after-effects of your accident?

Since the accident I have suffered from depression and ever since been on anti-depressants. I found snooker by mistake, I just hid myself away from the outside world, so my dad took me to the snooker hall and I fell in love with the game. Snooker is my escape from my mind and my depression and I love it.

When I’m at one with the game there’s no better feeling. I’ve never been so emotionally engrained in a person or an object like my snooker.

David Church standing at Crucible Theatre

At the home of snooker

You recently joined us for Disability Day at this year’s World Championship, how did you find the day?

I was honoured to be invited to Sheffield for World Disability Snooker Day at the Crucible Theatre and being able to watch my hero Ronnie O’Sullivan, who I met on the day and previously I watched his exhibitions in Lowestoft. I enjoyed watching the snooker and being in the snooker capital with my girlfriend Olivia and meeting more people from the WDBS.

Before Wolverhampton you will also be in action at a professional event for the first time, the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany. Tell us about what made you enter the event and how much you are looking forward to the experience.

I play at Woodside Snooker Centre in Norwich where former professional Barry Pinches plays and I often play his son Luke Pinches, who is under-16 amateur runner up, as well as a couple of great players who are on the EASB Premier Tour.

They suggested that we should go, so I jumped at the chance to go and play and hopefully give a good account of myself and my ability. I’m really excited to be competing in the amateur round.

What message would you have for anyone out there considering entering a WDBS event for the first time?

On the baize

No matter what your disability is or what standard you are, whether you are a 20+ break or 100+ break player – go for it!

The moments, memories and the weekend away is 100% worth it. It is the best thing I’ve done personally. As well as an amazing weekend full of snooker it is a great opportunity to meet and make friends with people who share the same interests and are in a similar situation.

David will next be competing at the Open Disability Snooker Championship in Wolverhampton from 22-24 September 2017. Entries are still open for the event – please visit here for more information.

Gary Gallacher Q&A

This week World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) heads to Cwmbran for the first ever WDBS Welsh Open, featuring a record 45 players from all classification groups.

Among those in action will be Gary Gallacher, a player who has been with us since our first Group 7 event in Woking over a year ago and has been an ever-present since.

Like Phillip Murphy who we spoke to recently, Gary is from Wales and so we caught up with him to preview our latest event…

You have been with us since our first event for Group 7 players in Woking last year, can you tell us what snooker and these WDBS events in particular have done for you?

I watched snooker on TV as a child and started playing in my teens. Now in my mid fifties, I still love the game as much as I did all those years ago. Obviously my disability has held me back but the WDBS has now given me a chance to play competitively within a level playing field.

What have you been able to learn from the players that you have played against?

We all have the same passion about snooker and it goes to show that no matter what disability you have, anything is possible.

Photo of David Baker and Gary Gallacher

How have you found the camaraderie at these events, the social side and getting to know fellow regulars like Bob Craft and David Baker.

It has been absolutely fantastic. Coming in as a new player (Woking), I was made to feel welcome straight away and although we are all extremely competitive, we always find time for a chat and a few beers with each other, comparing cues, makes, woods, tips etc. The list is endless!

Tell us about your disability, how does this affect your snooker?

I have ‘Intolerable Diplopia’ (incurable constant double vision). I have had five operations during my lifetime on each eye along with botox injections and various other interventions to no avail. When I play snooker my vision alters with every angle due to also having a horizontal and vertical defect. I am unable to get down to a shot for too long as each eye picks up a different image (they don’t work together), hence I have to line the shot up before I get down to it and play it from memory rather than visually. If I take any longer than a few seconds I have to stand up and start again, this puts pressure on me to play quickly. The greater the distance the more difficult it gets, It’s really frustrating.

You recently joined us for Disability Day at the Crucible, at which your family came with you, how did you find that day?

It was a dream come true to be invited to represent the WDBS at World Disability Snooker Day and was one of my proudest moments. To play alongside such a prestigious event as the World Snooker Championships, tour the Crucible and meet past and present champions was an absolute pleasure. It was something I never thought I would achieve and it’s all down to being part of the WDBS.

Next up we have the first Welsh Open, which will be held in your home country, how much are you looking forward to that?

I can’t wait – counting down the minutes and looking forward to a shorter train journey!

What message would you have for anyone out there considering entering a WDBS event for the first time?

If you are passionate about snooker don’t let disability hold you back. The tournaments, the players, the support and the coaching are second to none. Just get in there and show what you can do.

Photo of Phillip Murphy playing snooker

Phillip Murphy Q&A

The recent Paul Hunter Disability Classic at the Cueball Derby saw its strongest field yet for players with visual and hearing disabilities, including Pontypridd’s Phillip Murphy who was competing at a WDBS event for the first time.

With our next tournament set to be held in Cwmbran, Wales later this month, we caught up with Phillip to reflect upon his WDBS debut and what he would say to anybody thinking about entering future events…

Phillip, we recently met you for the first time at the Paul Hunter Disability Classic in Derby, how did you find your first WDBS event experience?

I found my first WDBS experience a little nerve-racking, but at the same time I was excited as this was my first time and I was unsure what to expect on the way up from Wales!

How impressed were you by the standard of the players that you saw during the weekend?

I was absolutely impressed by the standards of the classification groups and I saw some fantastic snooker matches while I was in Derby.

It was great to learn more about some of the disabilities that some of the players have and to see that they could play equally as well as able-bodied players, both those with visual and hearing disabilities. It is unbelievable.

How did you become a snooker fan, how long have you been playing?

My first love is football but snooker is not far behind!

I used to play a lot of pool and once at the club while I was waiting for my match to start I had a game of snooker and was instantly hooked. I joined my local club and started to play in a league with my team.

That was four years ago now and I have been playing snooker ever since.

Tell us about your disability, how does this affect your snooker?

The condition I have is called retinitis pigmentosa (usher syndrome) night blindness, which is a slow degenerative condition which affects my peripheral vision and the ability to see in dark areas.

The biggest issue I have with it affecting my game is that when I am concentrating on the cue ball I get black ‘floaters’ on the cue ball. This means that I need to get back up from the shot and wait for a minute, before I can go back down and then I am usually ok.

Also if the lightning on a table isn’t good I can’t play on that table at all, which has happened a few times with my local league team where light has been poor and I have been unable to play.

Plus I tend to look around prior to every shot being taken to make sure no one is behind me so I don’t hit anyone or anything.

Next up we head to Cwmbran for what will be your home tournament, the WDBS Welsh Open. What have you learned from your first event and how much are you looking forward to it?

Yes I am looking forward to the Welsh Open at Cwmbran Redz which is practically on my doorstep!

I have learned from my first event not to be so nervous. I did find that I put a lot of pressure on myself throughout the whole tournament in Derby and that is a massive lesson I’ve learned. It won’t be happening this time around.

It’s ok to be nervous though, I will probably still be. Even the professionals get nervous before an event.

I am also looking forward to meeting and playing other players as this event is open to all classification groups. It will be fascinating to see and play against these players.

What message would you have for anyone out there considering entering a WDBS event for the first time?

My message to others who are thinking of entering a WDBS event is to enter and come along and enjoy the free coaching which helped me massively in my game at my first event. I have taken that advice on board since and this has helped me to play better at my local club.

It’s ok to be nervous as I explained previously even I was nervous. You’ll be looked after by everyone involved in the WDBS events so come and enjoy a game of snooker and make friends.

It’s that simple: Enter, play snooker and make friends!

The entry deadline for the WDBS Welsh Open is 23 June 2017, download the entry form now and join Phillip and the rest of the field in Cwmbran.