Day 12 of “No Crucible ” – Women Snooker Day

Yesterday would have been “Women Snooker Day” in the Winter Garden. Of course, that wasn’t on, instead, there were a few good articles published around.

This one, by WPBSA , looks at how the women’s game has progressed  over the last year:

Women’s Snooker Review 2019/20

29th April 2020

 

Today we look back on a 2019/20 World Women’s Snooker Tour season which has seen some fantastic snooker played across the globe by the world’s leading female players.

Of course, the end of the season has not concluded in the way that we would have liked with the unavoidable postponement of both the Festival and World Championship tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it has nevertheless been an important 12 months for women’s snooker with tournament entries and media exposure continuing to increase.

Below we pick out a few of the highlights of the campaign and reflect on the action we have seen on the baize…

Title Triple

For the first time since the 2016/17 season we crowned three ranking event champions as regular champions Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee were joined in the winner’s circle for the first time by Nutcharut Wongharuthai.

Having been knocking on the door for the previous 18 months with four ranking event final appearances to her name, the Thai star memorably broke her title duck at the Australian Women’s Open with victory against On Yee in the final. The win saw her become only the sixth active player to have won a full-ranking event title and reach a new career-high ranking of third in the world where she remains today.

Either side of her triumph came further victories for England’s Reanne Evans, who added record-extending ninth and sixth triumphs at the UK Women’s Championship and Eden Women’s Masters tournaments respectively. The wins helped our reigning world champion extend an unbeaten run dating back to October 2018 and underline her status as the undisputed number one on tour.

It was however Ng On Yee who ended the winning streak of Evans at our most recent competition in Bruges back in February, a 4-2 final success marking her own return to form as she claimed her first title in over a year on the WWS circuit at the second Belgian Women’s Open.

Crucible Return

Prior to the ranking event action though it was at the iconic Crucible Theatre in Sheffield where the new season was launched as women’s snooker returned to the home of snooker for the first time in 16 years.

The new Women’s Tour Championship saw our top four ranked players take to the baize at the venue which has hosted the professional World Championship since 1977, with only Reanne Evans have competed there previously.

With plenty of drama, tension and high quality snooker on display, the event represented a wonderful showcase of women’s snooker and demonstrated what our top players can do on the big stage.

  • Read our full report from the day HERE.

Participation on the Rise

The primary objective of WWS remains to provide opportunities for women and girls to pick up a cue and play snooker, providing the platform for players around the world, of any age or level of experience, to do so competitively.

We have been delighted this season to welcome several new players to the World Women’s Snooker Tour with no fewer than 35 women competing on the circuit for the first time.

With a total of 152 players from 29 countries currently ranked – an increase from just 38 players only six years ago – the tour is bigger than it has ever been during the current generation with more players joining all the time.

Among those to have joined the circuit, Northern Ireland’s Chucky Preston made an immediate impression at the Eden Masters by reaching the quarter-finals on her debut, while she was also one of a number of newcomers to reach the final of one of our side-tournaments during the campaign.

For the first time we welcomed players from Morocco as African Games champion Yousra Matine and Hind Bennani travelled to England to compete, with Hind reaching the Challenge Cup final at the UK Championship despite playing with a borrowed cue after her own did not arrive in time.

We have also been excited to welcome new players from Guernsey, Scotland, Russia, New Zealand and more.

Ranking Risers

It has been another season which has seen key movements across the world ranking list with a number of players reaching new career-high positions as they continue to develop their game.

As already mentioned above the most notable example is Thailand’s Nutcharut Wongharuthai who climbed to third position behind leading duo Reanne Evans and Ng On Yee at the top of the list.

Not far behind her and up to a new career-best of seventh is Emma Parker of England, who enjoyed another strong season by reaching her second ranking event semi-final at the Belgian Women’s Open, as well as winning Under-21 tournaments in Bruges and Leeds. She also achieved success at national level by claiming the English Women’s Championship for the first time.

Other notable players to have made significant gains at the top end of the rankings include former European champion Wendy Jans, while 17-year-old Ploychompoo Laokiatphong is up to 14th after she reached her first ranking event semi-finals at the UK Women’s Championship and Eden Masters tournaments.

Professional Opportunities

It has been another season where together with our friends at the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and World Snooker Tour, we have continued to work to provide new opportunities for our stars to compete at the highest level.

Most significantly this season saw our reigning world champion Reanne Evans qualify to play at the professional Champion of Champions for the first time, where she took on former triple crown winner Shaun Murphy live on ITV4. There she was able to recover from 3-0 down to force a deciding frame, before Murphy was able to get over the line with a one-visit break.

Once again Evans was also invited together with Nutcharut Wongharuthai to compete at the Shoot Out professional ranking event, although both ultimately found themselves up against impressive performances from opponents Ian Burns and Thor Chuan Leong respectively in the first round.

Both Evans and Ng On Yee also competed at the prestigious SangSom 6-Red World Championship in Thailand last September, while our top three ranked players were also set to play at the Betfred World Championship qualifiers in Sheffield this month, prior to the postponement of the tournament until later this summer.

WPBSA also honoured Mandy Fisher, the woman who singlehandedly kept the women’s game alive for years, when nobody else cared:

The Mandy Fisher Story

29th April 2020

 

Whether as a fellow competitor, an organiser, as a colleague or as a friend, it is safe to say that most people involved with women’s snooker during the past 40 years have come across Mandy Fisher at some stage or another.

One of three well-known women to have played under the surname Fisher – bizarrely none of them are related – the highlight of Mandy’s career on the baize came back in 1984 as she achieved her dream of becoming the world women’s snooker champion.

But her legacy to the sport will be something far greater as she played an instrumental role in the creation of the organisation known today as World Women’s Snooker (WWS), which she still heads today as its president.

For over 40 years her life has been intertwined with a sport that has fascinated her since she was a girl. Today in the first of a two-part interview, we hear from Mandy about how she became involved with snooker and the events that led to the formation of WWS in 1981.

“When I left school, I used to go to a local BRSA (British Rail Staff Association) club with my parents because there were a lot of activities including pool and bar billiards,” said Fisher. “One day they were short on players in their team and they asked me to play pool and I won. I then won the local singles championship in my area which was a big achievement at the time. I was the only woman ever to be in it and the only woman ever to win it.

“After that my dad took me somewhere to buy me a cue as a present when I was 16 and that was the first time I had ever seen a snooker table.”

From the outset Mandy was intrigued by the game and as she learned more, inspired by the opportunity in front of her to be able to progress to the highest level in the sport.

“The guy who had the snooker room said he knew of a women’s association and I went along and I saw the standard,” said Fisher. “I thought that there is no other sport in the world where I felt like I could reach this level and become good at it, so I spoke to my parents about how much I loved it. They gave up their front room and moved into a bedroom so I could have a snooker table in there!

“I practiced hard and I went to the World Championship and it was brilliant. A girl called Lesley McIrath won it from Australia and they announced that the following year there was going to be £2,000 for the winner and £1,000 for the runner-up. That was a year’s wages for me so I had a chat with my parents and gave up work to concentrate on snooker. That following year I reached the final, won £1,000 and lost in the final to Vera Selby.”

After her breakthrough performance came a devastating blow however as it was announced in 1981 that there would not be any future women’s snooker tournaments.

Although she was still young and new to the game, Mandy was not prepared to see her snooker journey be cut short and set about forming the association that exists today as WWS. Although this did inevitably come at the expense of her playing career to some extent, she still has many fond memories of the time.

“I was so passionate about the sport and so with the help of a company called Grosser Jack from Windsor in Berkshire, we formed the World Ladies Billiards and Snooker Association,” explained Fisher. “I was the founder of the association and I liked administration, so I had a lot of fun.

“I carried on playing but when I was running things and trying to get it off the ground it was difficult. I was proud to be one of the first women ever to reach the last 128 of the English Amateur Championship.

“There was a lot of talent in the women’s game at that time, players like Alison Fisher, Kelly Fisher, Tessa Davidson, Stacey Hillyard and other such good players. Everyone inside the top eight could make century breaks, which was significant when you consider that at the time it was still such an achievement in the professional game.

“We used to have 40 entries even in those days coming up to Leeds to play at the Northern Snooker Centre, which was – and still is – one of the best clubs in the country. Jim Williamson welcomed us with open arms which a lot of clubs didn’t in those days, so that makes it extra special that the club continues to be a significant venue for us today.”

Of course, the 1980s were known in the UK as snooker’s first boom period and for the women’s game it was no different as Mandy recalls.

“It was an amazing time to be involved in the sport,” said Fisher. “I was quite good friends with Jimmy White and Tony Meo because in my town the man who first introduced me to snooker used to have them down to play on his table and then he would take them around all of the little snooker clubs in the area.

“I was lucky enough during the day to go in and play, then they used to go out and do an exhibition. I would go along and watch which was fantastic, He did that several times and got them lots of exhibitions, in the days when they were amateurs before it really took off in a big way.”

The dominant player during the 1980s was six-time world champion Steve Davis and Mandy has fond memories of crossing cues with him and his great rival Alex Higgins on the baize.

“I did a local exhibition with Steve and Alex at the Bushfield Sports Centre in Peterborough in front of 1,000 people and they bussed a load of people from March to support me which was wonderful,” recalled Fisher. “The atmosphere was incredible and I played three frames against Alex Higgins and I did sneak one off him (he probably allowed me to win it, I’m not quite sure!).

“But during the second best of three against Steve Davis I just produced. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline but I did play really well and I was 54 points ahead at 1-1 in the third frame before he cleared up with a 57 break. But it was fantastic and I have great memories of that evening, it will always stay with me.”

Although he was not a player, another man synonymous with snooker in the 1980s was of course Barry Hearn, then manager to Steve Davis and now chairman of the sport’s commercial arm World Snooker Tour.

“Barry was lovely and in the early days he gave us an awful lot of support which I am eternally grateful for,” explained Fisher. “My first experience with him was when he organised the intercity mixed pairs where I played with Steve Davis and another girl called Julie Islip played with Tony Meo.

“The event was on national television, screened directly before the FA Cup final to keep viewers on that channel. We did a pre-match interview the week before with Dickie Davis on World of Sport and then went down there to Southend to play on a match table in front of all the people which was amazing.

“Barry did all of that and he saw the potential in women’s snooker. He later secured sponsorship from Forte Hotels to sponsor us for three years, with events played across London. He also achieved the Mita world masters which injected huge sums of money into the women’s game. He really is the Midas man!

“Unfortunately for us Barry was becoming heavily involved with other activities such as Leyton Orient football club and boxing, typically making a success of everything that he does! But it was fantastic to be able to work with him during that period and to see what he is doing now with the professional game.”

More recently, women’s snooker has survived some challenging times before in 2015 agreement was reached with snooker’s world governing body the World Professional Snooker and Billiards Association (WPBSA) for World Women’s Snooker to become its subsidiary company. With the support of the WPBSA the World Women’s Snooker Tour has been able to expand like never before with international events held across the world and over 150 players now on the world ranking list, leaving Fisher optimistic for the future.

“It has been fantastic to have the WPBSA on board during the last few years,” continued Fisher. “They have been really enthusiastic about it and it has been great to host events outside of the UK in mainland Europe, Asia and the Oceania region of the past few years. In particular, last year’s World Women’s Championship in Thailand was one of the best tournaments that I have been involved in during the past 40 years.

“I firmly believe that the sky is the limit with women’s snooker. There is no physical reason why a woman cannot play snooker as good as a man. Certainly, Reanne Evans is capable of and has proved that she can play amongst the professional men. We are welcoming more new players all the time and I am confident that as we continue to grow and visit new territories, we will only continue to see players improve. I see a very bright future ahead for the women’s game.”

Thank you to Mandy for her time and we look forward to seeing her and everyone else back on Tour next season.

And Annette Lord wrote this lovely piece about Vera Selby, a great champion, strong lady and once “a voice” on BBC snooker.

‘Revelation’ of 1980s BBC female commentator Vera Selby leaves snooker fans shocked

In honour of Women’s Snooker Day, Annette Lord looks at one of the game’s female pioneers who surprised many watching the classic Crucible matches in lockdown.

“Who’s the woman commentating on the BBC in 1982?” That was the question on many fans’ lips when the TV network launched its Crucible Classics last week, looking back at golden matches from yesteryear.

In fact, some messaged Snooker Chat searching for the answer after seeing Tony Knowles trouncing Steve Davis 10-1 and others took to social media with the query.

The answer is Vera Selby, a remarkable lady who is not only a multiple world champion in both snooker and billiards but was honoured for her services to both sports and also amazed everyone by playing regularly well into her 80s.

Selby was born in 1930 in Richmond, North Yorkshire, and first became aware of billiards aged six through watching her uncle play in the cellar of his home in Newcastle. This started a life-long love of cuesports, with Selby becoming women’s world billiards champion eight times between 1970 and 1978.

She was also one of the leading women’s snooker players of the 1970s, winning the national title four years in a row from 1972-75 and also regaining it in 1979.

But her success didn’t end there. Selby was crowned the first ever women’s world snooker champion when the inaugural tournament was held in 1976 and five years later captured the title again, entering the record books by becoming, at 51, the oldest female world champion in any sport.

That was 1981, and within two years Selby – who made a living as a lecturer in art, textiles and dress design at what was then Newcastle Polytechnic – had taken early retirement aged 53.

Selby was also becoming a voice on TV, as some of the Crucible Classics last week proved.

Some fans were astonished to hear Selby commentating, and there was also praise for the BBC for being “ahead of its time”.

“I had no idea there were women commentators back then,” said v3rng (@vernongiles1959), one of many to comment on Twitter.

“Vera Selby commentating for BBC at the Crucible in 1982. Snooker was way ahead of its time with a female commentator,” added Phil Gilman (@bookiemonster81), with Chris Schou Watts (@goatsebeast) saying: “Good on the BBC for getting women involved at the top level so early (seeing as snooker only really ‘started’ in the 70s).”

It was certainly a surprise to remember that snooker had a woman commentator in the early 1980s. But Selby was not the first female to commentate for the BBC on cuesports. Thelma Carpenter, also a champion in both billiards and snooker in the 1930s, commentated for billiards on BBC Radio. And Joyce Gardner, one of her rivals in both games whose once recorded a snooker break of 82, was also employed to commentate on radio. One of her appearances was at the 1946 World Snooker Championship, where she gave her thoughts on Joe Davis v Horace Lindrum for the fee of 6 guineas (£6.30).

Yes, there were female cueists in the 1930s. Alongside Gardner and Carpenter at the top of the game was Ruth Harrison, from County Durham, who won the Women’s Professional Snooker Championship – a national event – eight years running.

Back to Selby, who was given a lifetime achievement award for services to billiards in 2014 and was made an MBE for services to snooker and billiards in the 2016 Queen’s birthday honours.

She told the BBC’s Rob Walker: “It was wonderful. Prince Charles gave me it. He said ‘you don’t look like a snooker player.’ I replied, saying we weren’t all big butch male players and he laughed.”

Amazingly, Selby was still competing at the age of 86 and is now 90, enthusing about the benefits of playing for older people.

She said in 2016: “It guards against dementia and it’s a physical thing as well as being mental. You are not getting fresh air but you are walking round and round the table.”

What a remarkable woman. Vera Selby, we salute you!

I had the pleasure to meet Vera at the Women’s Day in 2016 . She is a truly remarkable person!

I you are passionate about snooker and you don’t already, give Nigel’s blog “The Green Baize” a follow.