Winners Crowned at Champion of Champions

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The 2023/24 WDBS season reached its conclusion last weekend with the fourth staging of the Champion of Champions at the Landywood Snooker Club in England.

The unique tournament saw two leading players from each disability classification group qualify to contest long-format best of 11 frame finals across each of the eight main classification groups, encompassing physical, intellectual and sensory disabilities.

With six first-time winners presented with the Nick Oliver Trophy from eight finals, it was a weekend to remember for a number of players on the WDBS Tour.

Stuart Barker and Tony Southern smiling

Groups 1-5 (Physical)

The Group 1+2 final (wheelchair) was won for the first time by England’s Tony Southern, who saw off compatriot Gary Swift 6-4 in the Landywood final.

Runner-up in both 2018 and 2023, the top-ranked wheelchair player claimed two of the opening three frames and was never headed as he lifted the trophy for the first time in his WDBS career.

Joe Hardstaff and his wife smiling

There was a repeat winner in Group 3 as Joe Hardstaff won an epic 12-hour contest with Kal Mattu 6-5 on the final pink to become of only two players to successfully defend the title that he won 12 months ago.

Victory looked unlikely for Hardstaff as he trailed 4-1 at the halfway point of the match, but the former Hull Open champion won the next three frames to draw level, before adding the final two to complete surely the best ever WDBS comeback to date.

Carl Gibson and his son smiling

In Group 4 there was a maiden title for number one ranked Carl Gibson who crowned a dominant season with a 6-4 win against David Church to become Champion of Champions for the first time.

A repeat of the Thailand final at the World Abilitysport Games last December saw Gibson take on 2018 Champion of Champions Church, who was a late call-up following the withdrawal of last season’s winner William Thomson earlier in the week.

Gibson hit the highest break of the weekend with a run of 82 in the fourth frame and looked set to complete a 6-3 win as he potted the final black, only to see the cue ball drop into the left-middle pocket. The Hull player was not to be denied, however, as he dominated the following frame to secure the title.

Dave Bolton and Nigel Mawer smiling

Dave Bolton continued his title streak in Group 5 as he toppled Dalton Lawrence 6-2 to win the Champion of Champions for the first time. From 2-2 at the mid-session interval, 48-year-old Bolton won four frames in a row to claim his seventh consecutive WDBS title, with his only loss coming at the World Abilitysport Games last December.

Alan Reynolds smiling with dad and Nigel Mawer

Group 6 (Intellectual)

Alan Reynolds completed the successful defence of his maiden Champion of Champions title in Group 6A with a 6-4 victory against Mohamed Faisal Butt.

Having scored a 6-0 whitewash against Butt a year ago, it looked as though Reynolds would ease to another comfortable win as he opened up a 5-1 lead and one frame from the title.

Three-time Champion of Champions finalist Butt was not beaten, however, as he hit back to win three frames and close to 5-4, before Reynolds won the next to get over the line and secure the title for a second time.

Matthew Haslam and Nigel Mawer smiling

In Group 6B, there was an impressive 6-0 victory for Matthew Haslam who avenged his 6-4 defeat to Leroy Williams a year ago and lift the Champion of Champions title for the first time in his career.

With breaks of 42, 40, 43 and finally a match-clinching 64 in the last frame, it was a dominant performance from 19-year-old Haslam who has now won five WDBS titles during the past 18 months.

Nigel Mawer and Dylan Rees smiling

Groups 7-8 (Sensory)

The Group 7 (visual) group saw Ireland’s Dylan Rees end the title defence of Mike Gillespie with a 6-2 victory to become Champion of Champions for the first time in his career.

From 2-2 at the mid-session interval, it was Rees who won a series of close frames to seal his seventh WDBS title on his debut appearance in the competition.

Nigel Mawer and Gary Taylor smiling

Finally, Group 8 (deaf) saw another new winner crowned as Gary Taylor scored a resounding 6-0 success against two-time winner Lewis Knowles to complete a career-best season which has also seen him become number one for the first time.

Taylor top scored with a run of 60 in frame three as he lifted the Nick Oliver Trophy for the first time in his career.

World Disability Billiards and Snooker congratulates each of this year’s eight champions, as well as the runner-ups who qualified for the tournament on account of their achievements over the past two years on the Tour.

Thanks also go to Paul Lloyd and his team at the Landywood Snooker Club, for providing us with their facilities during the weekend.

The WDBS Tour will return with the German Open from 2-4 August 2024. Entry for the event is now open via WPBSA SnookerScores.