Last November saw the WDBS host the 2015 Open Disability Snooker Championship at the South West Snooker Academy in Gloucester.
Staged by the new governing body for World Disability Billiards and Snooker, the tournament marked the first step on the long road back to the Paralympics for cue sports and proved to be well-received by those who took part.
One of those players was Gloucester’s Tony Pockett, who finished as runner-up in the Group 4/5 event to India’s Raja Subramanian. Pockett, who suffers from chronic back pain, decided to end a 24-year absence from snooker when by chance he heard about the tournament on the local radio:
“I was driving in the car when I heard about the tournament and thought that it sounded interesting,” said Pockett. “To be honest, in my position you have got to be in a positive mood to even think about entering something like this. If the event had been somewhere else I might not have gone, but because it was on my doorstep I thought that I would make the effort and go.”
Tony first began to play snooker at the age of 14 and regularly played in local leagues in Gloucester, however was diagnosed with dropfoot in 1988 when a piece of disc in his spine crushed the nerve going to his foot. He underwent a spinal decompression operation three years later that unfortunately was unsuccessful and prior to this tournament had barely played snooker since.
Pockett said: “I had to give up work and snooker because of my spine and I haven’t played since then properly. I’ve played two games in Weston Super Mare with my son, other than that it’s the first time and my cue had been in the bedroom since 1991!
“I used to play seven days a week as my father was a groundsman at sports and social club. We could be there all through the holidays and that’s where it first started off. When I met my wife I said that I should always go and play snooker on a Sunday lunchtime whatever happens, but when I gave up work that was it.”
Pockett, whose wife Carol also suffers with a disability, explained that for him the event has opened doors and that he would now like to continue to play snooker on a more regular basis, having already arranged to meet with other players from the event.
“My wife said that it must be the first time she has been left on her own all day for 25 years,” added Pockett. “She is disabled as well, so we live a very limited life. The event has opened the doors for me in a way. It has given me the interest to have a go at it now, whereas before I would say ‘no ok mate’. It has been really good, so laid back and the organisation has been superb.
“I was watching the younger lads play and they thoroughly enjoyed themselves which is wonderful. What can you get better than this? Nobody felt outclassed.”
As one of the group finalists in Gloucester, Pockett was also invited to attend the final Saturday of the Betway UK Championship and was given a special backstage tour of the venue, including the television studios, main arena and practice tables.
He was particularly thrilled to meet the likes of Steve Davis, John Parrott, John Virgo and Dennis Taylor, as well as David Grace who took time out from his semi-final preparations to pose for photographs.
Check out our photo galleries on Facebook for more images from both the 2015 Open Disability Championship and of Tony’s visit to the Betway UK Championship.
The WDBS will be announcing details of its 2016 events during the coming weeks.