Category: Player Features

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.

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

Player of the Season 2020: The Shortlist

World Disability Billiards and Snooker (WDBS) has today published its shortlist for this year’s Vic Hartley Player of the Season 2019/20.

First introduced last year and won by Group 2 player Daniel Lee, the award is named in honour of long-standing referee Vic Hartley who sadly passed away in March 2019 and recognises the outstanding player of each season as voted for by WDBS.

It was announced yesterday that this year’s recipient of the award will be revealed next Wednesday during our Disability Snooker Day celebrations, which will take place online following the postponement of the professional World Championship.

As in 2019, the winner has been selected from a shortlist comprising one player from each main classification group as follows:

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

Who would be your player of the season? Join the debate and let us know at our Twitter and Facebook pages before we announce this season’s winner on Wednesday.

Phil Woodwiss Q&A

Among the players who will be competing at this weekend’s Belgian Open will be Skipton’s Phil Woodwiss, who first joined the WDBS circuit approximately 18 months ago and has become a regular on tour.

We recently caught up with the former Open Disability Championship semi-finalist ahead of his return to Bruges to discuss the upcoming tournament, the benefits of playing snooker to him and how important the social aspects of WDBS events are…

Hi Phil, this week we are preparing to return to Bruges for the third staging of the WDBS Belgian Open. How much are you looking forward to returning to the event, having made the trip previously in 2019?

I am very excited to be going back to Bruges. It’s a beautiful place to visit and hopefully I’ll get to see a bit more of it this time.

The Trickshot club we play at is a fantastic venue and we are certainly well looked after all the time while we are there by Olivier [Vandenbohede] and his staff.

Last year you reached the final of the Challenge Cup in Belgium, how happy are you with your game 12 months on?

It’s been a frustrating time; my form has been shocking, hardly winning any matches in the local league or at any WDBS events. However, I seemed to have turned a corner being able to practice more with top quality conditions and players at my friend John’s pub The Crossroads Inn in Keighley, West Yorkshire. So, I am aiming to do well in the event in Bruges.

It has been approximately 18 months since you joined us at the 2018 Welsh Open for your first WDBS event. How much have you enjoyed competing on the circuit to date?

It’s just like being a professional; I love it, each event is different wearing a smart suit, with referees, meetings with the Tournament Director each day before the start of play and even signing the report sheet after each match. Although my request for extra ‘pockets’ on the table in the comments section has yet to be answered!

What have been your highlights on tour during your time with us so far?

I would say the highlight so far was playing in Belgium last year for the first time. I had always in the past wanted to play in a snooker tournament abroad, so doing it together with my fellow WDBS players was great and hopefully we will play in other countries around the world in the future.

How did you first get into snooker?

One of my friends gave me a 3ft snooker table that he was going to throw away. I began to play on that, not really knowing what I was doing but just learning to pot the balls until I got the chance to play on a proper full size snooker table at a local snooker centre in my home town of Keighley when I was 15 years old.

How does your disability affect your snooker and how challenging has it been returning to the baize? Was there a time you thought that you might not play again?

I no longer move around as quickly as I once did, which can be frustrating at times, as I was a quick player and I have lost the flexibility when positioning myself for certain shots. I now use a small extension which screws into the butt of my cue which many players use, which means I don’t have to position myself across the table awkwardly like I used to do before my disability.

Yes, it was quite scary to think I would not play again. As it wasn’t known until after surgery, how I would walk or if at all. To be able to play again after becoming disabled was a great relief and surprise.

How do you feel that playing snooker as an activity can be of benefit to people with a disability?

Snooker is a game everyone can play at all levels of disability. Whatever disability you have you can find a way of adapting yourself with the use of aids to be able to play. It’s great fun as well with learning new skills on a snooker table. You get a great sense of achievement when you see improvements in your game over time. It also helps to take your mind off other things like the many doctors and hospital appointments and gives you something to look forward to.

As well as playing snooker, how important is the social side of these events to you?

To me it’s a very important part of any event. You don’t always have much time during a match or tournament to chat with many people, so when you go out for a meal with several other players and partners, carers or friends you get chance to get to know people.

You have made a number of friends on the circuit including the likes of Nigel Brasier and Dean Simmons, how much would you encourage other players to get together like this?

I would say at each event, go out at least one night with other players for a meal. It helps develop social skills like chatting to people, making new friends and also builds confidence, which all helps to develop trust in others, so that in the future we feel comfortable travelling in groups to WDBS events, especially as we look to play more events abroad.

It also helps to build self-belief and confidence to deal with our daily lives away from snooker events.

What advice would you have for people with disabilities who might be considering entering a WDBS event?

Don’t be afraid – come and have a go! We have all started where we couldn’t pot a ball. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, just like one big family is how I would describe the WDBS tour. You will make friendships that will last a lifetime.

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