Today is the day of the annual World Snooker award ceremony … so I though I could as well hold my own, here, and see how close I come from the “official” honours list. Only that I will distribute a Golden Turkey as well.
Player of the season: Mark Selby
No contest here, five ranking titles, including the UK Championship and the World Championship. Joining the very short list of players who have defended the World title (Steve Davis, Hendry, Ronnie and now Mark). Finishing World n°1 for the sixth season in a row. What can you say?
Rookie of the season: Yan Bingtao
This boy, who only turned 17 a few weeks ago, managed to climb into the last 64 in his very first season. Reaching a QF in Germany, and taking some scalps during his first pro season: Shaun Murphy, Michael Holt, Liang Wenbo and Mark Selby to name only the most illustrious of his victims.
Achievements of the season: Mark King, Anthony Hamilton and Ronnie
I couldn’t choose between those three: Mark King, 43, a pro since 1991 won his first ranking title, the Irish Open 2016; Anthony Hamilton, 45, a pro since 1991 won his first ranking title, the German Masters 2017; Ronnie O’Sullivan, 41, pro since 1992 won a record-breaking 7th Masters in January 2017. For Mark and Anthony it was the very emotional crowning of a long career spent mainly in the shadow, the reward of 26 years of blood, sweat and tears and they both celebrated with their family, the people who had supported them through thick and thin. For Ronnie, it was stamping his authority on what is very much his “home” tournament, the second more prestigious event on the calendar, setting a new record, and doing it without playing at his best but overcoming his own doubts as well as tip issues.
Media work of the season: the Eurosport UK studio team
Neal Foulds, Ronnie, Jimmy White and Colin Murray … this team has a dynamic and a “chemistry” that makes it both extremely interesting and genuinely entertaining. Neal is the wise man with all the experience and knowledge of the game history, Ronnie is the geek, analysing the action with acute knowledge, without compromise and saying as it is, Jimmy is oozing his love for the sport and Colin is the ringmaster, radiant with enthusiasm and providing the “glue”. And, boy, does it work a treat!
Book of the season: The Crucible’s Greatest Matches by Hector Nunns
A gret, great insight on some of the greatest, most iconic matches at the Crucible through the eyes and memories of those involved: the players and their entourage. Just read it!
Announcement of the season: Barry Hearn: no more entry fees for the pros
Announced by Barry Hearn during the World championship, this is definitely something that will genuinely help the lower ranked players and the beginners on the tour. It might also lift a blocking hurdle for many amateurs who didn’t even consider a pro career because they knew that they didn’t have the means to support the cost of it.
New event of the season: the World Seniors Snooker Championship
You will tell me it’s nothing new, but it is in this form and format. Jason Francis did a sterling job in a short time span to revive and refresh the event and plant the seeds of a true Seniors tour. By opening it to amateurs only, he got some of the legends of the past, including Stephen Hendry, as well as some of the best club players, to play in it (again) as they felt they had a genuine chance. And so it proved. By adding some glamour to it, it felt both festive and serious. He even managed to get sponsors that were not all betting related! And although there were a few issues with the streaming early on, the response from the fans was extremely positive.
Invisible heroes of the season: Nigel Mawler, his team and all the WDBS players
The World Disability Snooker family is something else. I can only advise everyone who has the opportunity to go, watch and support their events and players. Their love for the game, the mutual respect and support, the creativity in overcoming their disabilities … words are poor to describe how much in awe I am of these men and women.
Craziest celebration of the season: Liang Wenbo after winning the English Open
Most controversial decision of the season: Barry Hearn: making the Shootout a ranking event
Totally wrong in my eyes. This is an event that isn’t played under the rules of snooker, with matches reduced to just one frame, under a shotclock that is so ridiculously short that using any implement is almost impossible and in an atmosphere that proved unsuitable for conducting proper refereeing. David Gilbert was badly robbed. Mark Williams missed out an automatic spot at the Crucible because the winner of this farce got almost as many ranking points as the World quarter finalists (and the said winner himself admitted that it shouldn’t be ranking). And that’s not all … to quell the criticisms Barry Hearn offered the players the opportunity to vote: either keep it ranking or ditch it. That was always a non-choice. Why would players, many of them struggling financially, ditch an income opportunity? What they wanted was clear for all reading social media: keep it but invitational, as it was before, but that choice wasn’t offered. Allegedly this is not commercially viable. Hum … even ranking it didn’t attract many of the very top players. So?