Category: News

WWS Celebrates Eden Resources Partnership

This November should have seen the eighth staging of the Eden Women’s Masters, a tournament which since its first edition in 2013 has become an established competition held as part of the World Women’s Snooker Tour.

Eden Resources (Logo)Although the coronavirus pandemic has forced the postponement of this season’s event until a later date, today we celebrate not only the history of the Eden Masters, but our unbroken seven-year partnership with Singapore-based organisation Eden Resources, led by Chris Chuah.

Without the support of Eden – and Chuah in particular – the staging of several major events during that time would not have been possible. But where did it all begin?

Chuah’s Contribution

Chuah (who is also the President of national governing body Cuesports Singapore), has spoken previously of having been “personally inspired” by the likes of Mandy Fisher, Stacey Hillyard and Allison Fisher during the 1980s and of his subsequent desire to help to raise the profile of women’s snooker through event sponsorship.

An initial agreement saw Eden Resources become the title sponsor of two events during the 2013/14 season, with the Masters and World Championship both receiving significant backing by the company. This was subsequently extended to three events during the following season with the addition of the Eden Classic to the calendar, as well as separate sponsorship provided to individual players.

As of 2020, Eden has now sponsored 13 individual events, most notably the Eden Masters which has been held on no fewer than seven occasions since its inaugural staging in November 2013. The competition has been a particularly happy hunting ground for Reanne Evans who claimed the title for a sixth time most recently at Frames Sports Bar last year, while Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee is the only other name on the trophy having edged out Evans 4-3 in 2017.

Going Global

Eden’s sponsorship of the World Championship continued in 2015 – as On Yee ended the record 10-year winning streak of Evans – and the following year as Evans regained the title, but it was perhaps the staging of the 2017 event which marked a true watershed moment for the World Women’s Snooker Tour.

Having been held exclusively within the UK for over 20 years prior, with the support of Chris Chuah, Eden Resources and CueSports Singapore, the decision was taken to stage the tournament at the Lagoon Billiard Room in Singapore for the first time. The event began with the hosting of a once in a lifetime opening ceremony at the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and saw several notable players including world number three Nutcharut Wongharuthai and World Cup winning duo Waratthanun Sukritthanes and Baipat Siripaporn compete on the World Women’s Snooker Tour for the first time.

Following its dramatic conclusion as Ng On Yee defeated Vidya Pillai 6-5 on the pink to claim her second world crown, the event proved to be an overwhelming success and truly demonstrated the international potential of women’s snooker. The Tour has since maintained a strong presence in Asia and Oceania with further events held in Thailand and Australia as the 2017 event laid the foundations upon which we are continuing to build today.

Extended Support

The current climate is without doubt a challenging one as we continue to prepare for a return to competition as the world reacts to the coronavirus pandemic, but we are delighted to confirm that Eden Resources remains committed to sponsoring the Eden Masters when the tournament can be safely held later this season.

With a strong field of entries from 12 different countries having contested last year’s edition, the Eden Masters continues to go from strength to strength and has found a new home at Frames Sports Bar in Coulsdon.

All of us at World Women’s Snooker remain grateful for Eden’s support and we look forward to our continued cooperation in the future to stage more prestigious tournaments for women and girls everywhere.

WWS Welcomes Evans Honour

World Women’s Snooker (WWS) has today welcomed the news that its world number one Reanne Evans is to become an MBE for services to women’s snooker in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

During her 18-year career on the World Women’s Snooker Tour, Dudley’s Evans has established herself as the circuit’s most successful ever player with 57 ranking tournament wins to her name, including an unprecedented 12 World Championship titles.

Evans, who hails from a ‘snooker family’ with her elder brother having also played the sport to a high standard, entered her first WWS competition as a 16-year-old at the 2002 World Women’s Championship. There she made an immediate impression by stunning the previous year’s runner-up Lynette Horsburgh in the quarter-finals, before losing out to Kelly Fisher at the Crucible Theatre.

Tour Dominance

She would repeat the feat the following year, but it was the 2004/05 season where she would hit her stride as she claimed maiden titles at the Connie Gough Nationals, and British Open, before going on to claim her first world title with a 6-4 victory against Horsburgh in 2005.

Little did she know it, but her success would prove to be the first of an unprecedented ten successive World Championship titles, with further successes coming in 2016 and most recently 2019 in Thailand as she continues to rewrite the record books on the women’s circuit.

As of 2020 Evans has more world (12) and UK (9) titles than any other female player, coupled with an unprecedented 90-match winning streak to her name between 2008-2011. She also holds the record for the highest-ever break made at a WWS tournament of 140, compiled twice in 2008 and 2010.

In recent years she has had to battle new challengers, most notably Hong Kong’s Ng On Yee, who dethroned Evans at the 2015 semi-finals and has since gone on to claim three world titles of her own. It is however the Englishwoman who remains the benchmark in our sport and set records that will surely stand for many years to come.

Trailblazer

Alongside her dominance of the women’s circuit, Evans has also broken new ground on the mixed gender World Snooker Tour as she has sought to prove herself among the best players in the world – of any gender.

At the 2013 Wuxi Classic she defeated Thailand Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 5-4 to become the first woman to reach the final stages of a professional ranking event. Two years later she competed at the 2015 World Championship, narrowly losing out 10-8 to 1997 world champion Ken Doherty, before returning two years later to defeat top 64 player Robin Hull by the same scoreline in Sheffield.

With further opportunities afforded to the best women players to compete at the highest level in recent years than ever before, Evans has become an increasingly familiar face on television screens. Last year she recovered a 3-0 deficit against Shaun Murphy on her debut at the Champion of Champions, before the former world champion ended hopes of a landmark victory with a century break in the decider.

“The best is still to come”

Mandy Fisher, WWS President said: “I am absolutely thrilled to see that Reanne’s unparalleled achievements on the World Women’s Snooker Tour are to be recognised in this way.

“During the past 40 years we have seen many great players compete on our circuit, but few can argue that Reanne’s incredible record puts her at the very top of the list of women players to have ever played our sport.

“Still only 34, I am sure that – even with 12 world titles under her belt already – the best is still to come from Reanne, and she will have many years of success ahead of her. I am looking forward to see her continue to compete both on the women’s circuit and of course being a trailblazer for female snooker players everywhere by competing with the very best male players in the world on the professional World Snooker Tour.”

Continuous Colours Challenge!

We are today excited to announce the launch of our latest World Women’s Snooker Challenge devised by our world no.4 Rebecca Kenna – the Continuous Colours Challenge – or #ColourChallenge for short!

Following her unbeaten score of 136 to top the leader board of the recent ‘Chucky Challenge’ set by Northern Ireland’s Chucky Preston, Kenna was offered the chance to set the next challenge for women and girls to take on as the enforced break from competition due to the coronavirus pandemic continues.

Check out a full explanation and demo by Rebecca below and continue reading for the full rules…

The Challenge

  1. Prepare the table with just the six colours on their spots
  2. Place the cue ball anywhere on the table and pot the colours in sequence i.e. yellow, green, brown, blue and pink
  3. Before potting the black, re-spot the five potted colours
  4. Pot the black and play up for the yellow
  5. Repeat the above until you miss OR you complete 10 successful rounds (270 points).

There is no time limit and you can submit as many attempts as you like prior to the final deadline. Your score up to the point of a miss will count.

How to Enter

To take part, simply record your best attempt – does not have to be live – and either:

  1. Post on your Facebook page, tagging in the World Women’s Snooker Facebook page and stating your score. If our page is not tagged, we may not see your attempt and it will not count, or
  2. Send to us privately for us to post directly to our page

You can post as many attempts as you like, and your best will count towards the final leader board. Attempts must be made in one scoring visit and video footage unedited to count.

The highest two scoring players will each receive a £20.00 voucher to spend at WWS Tour Partner Cue Sports Yorkshire, which offers a wide range of equipment and services for snooker and pool.

WWS will also match this with £20.00 vouchers for the best two scores made by players currently ranked outside of the world’s top 10.

In the event of a tie-break, there will be an additional challenge to complete to determine the winners.

The deadline for entries is 23:59 on 30 November 2020.

Good luck everyone! #ColourChallenge

Chucky Challenge: Final Leader Board

World Women’s Snooker would like to thank everyone who has taken part in the WWS Chucky Challenge in recent weeks, with both established and new players getting involved.

The final standings are (world ranking in brackets):

1 – Rebecca Kenna (4) – 136
2 – Wendy Jans (9) – 126
3 – Suzie Opacic (8) – 94
4 – Chucky Preston (43) – 61
5 – Mandy Booth (U/R) – 33
6 – Alex Babb (U/R) – 30
7 – Avril Preston (U/R) – 16

Both Rebecca Kenna and Wendy Jans earn a free entry to a future WWS tournament courtesy of Spit’n Ink Tattoo Studio, as do Chucky Preston and Mandy Booth as the highest two scorers ranked outside of the world’s top 10.

As the overall winner of the challenge, Rebecca Kenna has been invited to set our next challenge which will be revealed shortly!

Women’s Masters 2020: Postponement Announcement

World Women’s Snooker (WWS) can today confirm the postponement of the Women’s Masters tournament scheduled to take place at Frames Sports Bar, London from 21-22 November 2020.

Following our previous statement concerning our return to competition we have continued to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, both within the UK (host country of the Women’s Masters) and across the globe.

As everyone will be aware, the current situation in the UK remains highly uncertain. It is widely anticipated that the upcoming winter period with more people crowded together indoors will be a challenging time for us all due to the nature of what is a respiratory virus. In recent days the UK has seen a significant increase in the number of reported cases and consequently an increased number of restrictions introduced at national and in places local level.

In this context, to stage an international tournament – with players, supporters and officials travelling from across the UK and overseas – inevitably carries a level of risk which we must balance against the measures that can be put in place to minimise that risk to everybody involved.

In all the circumstances, the Board has decided that it would not be appropriate to proceed with the event at this time and that the most sensible decision is to postpone the event until 2021. This also follows the position taken by other bodies within the WPBSA Group including both World Disability Billiards and Snooker and World Billiards.

We know that players are keen to return to competition, just as we are looking forward to seeing everyone again and continuing to grow women’s snooker further with the staging of more events. It remains our intention to be able to return as soon as it is safe to do so in 2021 with a busy calendar of events and we are grateful for your understanding and patience during this unprecedented situation.

We would like to thank Tony Thompson and his team at Frames who have been extremely supportive of WWS and we look forward to returning to the club as soon as possible.

Women’s Snooker Icons: Rita Holmes

Next year World Women’s Snooker (WWS) is set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its formation by Mandy Fisher in 1981, but of course there is an even deeper history of female participation in our sport that helped pave the way for the global tour in place today.

Dating back to its inaugural staging won by Margaret Quinn in 1933, the British Women’s Amateur Championship can count the likes of Rosemary Davies, Maureen Barrett, Muriel Hazeldene and of course Vera Selby, winner of our first World Women’s Snooker Championship, among its former champions.

Another notable snooker queen was Rita Holmes, who claimed the title four times (1953, 1957, 1958 and 1963) and recently we were lucky enough to catch up with the 86-year-old to learn more about her snooker journey and what it was like to be a women’s snooker star in what was a very different era.

“My father had a club in London [the Midland Billiards Club] with seven tables and my interest came from watching the men play from quite a young age,” explained Holmes. “I used to go into the club when I was a youngster and I was always quite fascinated by it.

“I didn’t start playing properly until I was 19, but my father asked me if I wanted to be serious about the sport and to be coached. Having decided that I did, he arranged for me to be coached by Sydney Lee, who was a professional player at that time. After 11 months he suggested that I should enter the British Championship in 1953 just for experience, but I was able to win it at the first attempt!”

Held at the stunning Burroughes Hall venue in Soho Square, London, the tournament carried significant prestige as the biggest prize to be won prior to the formation of a full women’s circuit and the inauguration of the World Women’s Championship contested today.

“It was a very special event to be able to compete in,” said Holmes. “Everything was played on just one table in the beautiful tournament room at Burroughes & Watts and done in such a lovely way. It was like a cinema with tip up seats all round and tiers at each end – I had a following!”

As Holmes – whose highest break of 74 was not to be underestimated at that time – recalls, while snooker is now very much a mixed gender sport with no barriers to participation in professional and amateur competitions, back in her day it was a different story with women not welcomed in what were ‘men only’ clubs at the time.

With access to tables at her father’s club however, Holmes was not to be deterred and would go on to meet many of the greats of her era – including the great Davis brothers while establishing herself as a formidable player in her own right.

“Back in the 1950s women weren’t allowed in men’s clubs at all,” continued Holmes. “The women that played were wealthy ladies who had their own tables in their own buildings and hotels. It wasn’t heard of to go into a man’s club but I was lucky because of my father’s club. There I became used to playing against the men and my father saw that I had an ability for the game, but we could not play together in competitions.

“As my coach Sydney Lee was best friends with Joe and Fred Davis however, I was able to meet them when they would come down to visit while I practised.

“One event that stands out in my mind was when the men had a great ball at the Park Lane Hotel and all the players Jackie Rea, Horace Lindrum, the Davis brothers, all of them were there and I was invited as the only woman player. It was a thrill, they were exciting times and it was very upmarket!”

After a decade which saw her reach the final of the British Championship for ten successive years – winning on four occasions – Holmes took the decision to hang up her cue and focus on her other passions. As well as her snooker career, she also had two dance academies for stage dancing, teaching over 170 students and organising her own musicals every year.

But snooker would always remain a part of her life and some 43 years later having received successful treatment for a persistent back problem, Holmes returned to the baize by entering her first WWS event at the 2006 British Open in Derby. There she would defeat Laura Alves 3-0 to reach the quarter-finals, before losing 4-2 to our current world no.8 Suzie Opacic.

“After my therapist was able to heal my back problems I said that I used to play snooker and wondered if I could play again,” continued Holmes. I found my cue after so many years and found that I could play, so I spoke with Mandy Fisher and explained who I was. She knew about me and said that there was a women’s circuit and so I went back to play and I held my own quite well for 73, I was doing alright! [laughs]”

Holmes had planned to enter more events and subsequently entered the 2007 World Championship in Cambridge, but disaster was to strike as she was to suffer a stroke in the run-up to the event that would inevitably have a significant impact upon her ability to play at the tournament.

“I was playing really well,” explains Holmes. “I had some tuition from Dominic Dale and I really picked up the cue again and felt that I had a chance of getting through a few matches.”

“But then I had a stroke seven days before I went to play. It was the worst thing that could have happened and instead of thinking that I should wait another year, I so wanted to play that I went to Cambridge, but I couldn’t play very well because I had lost a lot of my sight. It came back afterwards but at that time it was pretty grim, I couldn’t focus properly.”

“I was very silly to go back but I so wanted to play. I thought about coming back after that, but I was so disappointed and lost my confidence and for some reason just let it go and didn’t pursue it.”

Although circumstances would dictate that her comeback would be curtailed, it was at this time that she would strike up a friendship with two-time ranking event winner and snooker historian Dominic Dale, which endures to this day.

“Before I played in 2006 he phoned me because I was on TV ahead of my comeback,” said Holmes. “I used to practice in Dunster Castle and Dominic phoned and said he would like to come down and give me some tuition. So, he came down bless his heart, I met him and we went to the Castle which intrigued him as a collector of memorabilia and we’ve stayed friends ever since. He is such a lovely man and still visits me a lot. As soon as possible he will come down and we will go for a meal and a catch-up.”

Now approaching her 87th birthday, how does Holmes view the sport which has given her so many memorable moments over such a long period and could she be tempted by another comeback on the World Women’s Snooker Tour?

“I never miss it on the television,” said Holmes. “I’m still as interested in snooker now as I was when I was 19.”

“I used to practice in a social club a few yards away from where I live but at my age you don’t do that do you? It would be a bit embarrassing at my age to go along with all the youngsters – but I would long to play again if I had a table to play on.

“Never say never – once you have played you keep in touch with people and it is good!”

World Women’s Snooker would like to thank Rita for her time and insight into women’s snooker in the 1950s and would love to welcome her to a future tournament – either with her cue or just to meet our current players! We would also like to thank Dominic Dale who has provided the images used in this article.

Chucky’s Clearance Challenge!

Our very own Chucky Preston has issued a challenge to female snooker players around the world with the prize of free entry to a future World Women’s Snooker Tour competition on offer!

Northern Ireland’s Preston, who has risen to 43rd in the latest WWS world rankings since entering her first tournament last November, regularly demonstrates her ability with a series of drills and training demonstrations on her Facebook page.

While competitions currently remain suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are keen to see women and girls everywhere still playing snooker where possible and we are excited to be able to work with Chucky to encourage as many people as possible to take on her challenge!

The Challenge

The challenge is a simple one:

  1. Prepare the table as per the attached image
  2. Place the cue ball anywhere on the table and begin your break, potting reds and colours in sequence until no reds are remaining, then potting the six colours in order

There is no time limit and you can submit as many attempts as you like prior to the final deadline. Your score up to the point of a miss will count, you do not have to clear the table.

How to Enter

To take part, simply record your best attempt – does not have to be live – and either:

  1. Post on your Facebook page, tagging in the World Women’s Snooker Facebook page and stating your score. If our page is not tagged, we may not see your attempt and it will not count, or
  2. Send to us privately for us to post directly to our page

You can post as many attempts as you like, and your best will count towards the final leader board. Attempts must be made in one scoring visit and video footage unedited to count.

The highest two scoring players will earn free entry to a future WWS competition (excluding the World Championship) as sponsored by Spit’n Ink Tattoo Studio, Chucky’s business based in Lurgan, Northern Ireland.

World Women’s Snooker will also offer free entry to an event for the best attempts made by players currently ranked outside of the world’s top 10.

In the event of a tie-break, there will be an additional challenge to complete to determine the winners.

The deadline for entries is 1 October 2020

Good luck everyone!

WWS Update – Return to Competition Road Map

We can today provide an update as to our plans for the resumption of the World Women’s Snooker Tour (WWS) following the postponement of the Festival and World Championship tournaments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the past few months the WWS team, in conjunction with the WPBSA and other WPBSA Group organisations, has closely monitored the global situation so as to be able to take as well informed decisions as possible as to when we can safely return to competition.

As previously stated, our paramount concern remains the health and safety of our players and officials. We have been encouraged by the lifting of restrictions in some countries, notably the UK in recent weeks which has allowed snooker clubs to re-open following strict COVID-secure guidelines.

However, there remain several logistical challenges to be overcome before large scale amateur events such as WWS events can be held. Professional WST events for example are only able to be held with everyone involved observing strict social distancing and other measures in place, including the regular testing of players for COVID-19. The cost of testing is substantial and not affordable to WWS at this time. 

We are also particularly aware as an international organisation of the ever-changing travel restrictions currently in place around the world that may prevent some players being able to compete in competitions. As far as is reasonably possible we remain committed to only staging open tournaments at which players from all countries can attend and will therefore continue to monitor the position globally.

In view of the above we have taken the following decisions in respect of the rest of the 2020 calendar year:

2020

UK Championship – Postponed

We have taken the decision to postpone the UK Championship previously scheduled to take place in Leeds on the weekend of 12-13 September.

Although we are keen to see everyone competing at an event as soon as possible, we feel that to stage an international amateur event less than two months from now would not be appropriate, nor logistically feasible.

We are grateful to the team at the Northern Snooker Centre for their continued support and look forward to hosting this and other events at the venue as soon as possible.

Australian Women’s Open – Cancelled

Together with our friends at the Australian Billiards and Snooker Council (ABSC) we have also jointly decided that this year’s Australian Open will not take place this October.

We can however confirm that both parties are committed to hosting the event in 2021 and we remain grateful to Frank Dewens and his team at the ABSC for their continued support.

Women’s Masters – TBC

With four months between now and the planned staging of this year’s Women’s Masters at Frames Sports Bar in London, we have not yet taken a final decision as to whether the event can go ahead or not.

We will continue to monitor the global situation as to whether this, or any additional tournaments can be held during the rest of the year.

2021

On the basis that the global situation is more stable by 2021, it is our intention to stage more regular events during the early part of next year as we look to make up for the time lost in 2020.

As well as our established major ranking events – including the World Championship – we are also hopeful of incorporating additional localised events around the world into our calendar, as part of the new Women’s Challenge Series, which will also carry ranking points.

It is likely that when ranking event competition can resume that players from some countries may be unable to travel due to restrictions beyond our control. In the event of this happening consideration will be given as to how we can continue to stage events while minimising the sporting impact upon these players in respect of their world ranking position.

We hope that everyone in the World Women’s Snooker family is staying safe and we look forward to seeing everyone again as soon as possible.

Griffiths Reflects on Decade of Success in Hong Kong

In recent years, the World Women’s Snooker Tour has become one of the most cosmopolitan series of events in our sport with players from across the globe regularly competing in our tournaments.

One region in particular that has played a significant role in the internationalisation of the tour has been Hong Kong, with several players based at its Sports Institute (HKSI) including our three-time world champion Ng On Yee having competed in tournaments over the past decade.

A driving force behind providing opportunities for female players in Hong Kong has been Wayne Griffiths – son of former world champion Terry Griffiths and qualified WPBSA Snooker Coach – who this September will celebrate his tenth anniversary since becoming HKSI Head Coach.

Laying the Foundations

Together with his team, including Alan Wong and David Roe who will be familiar to all on the women’s circuit, Griffiths has helped shape the infrastructure that has enabled players at the HKSI to achieve their potential during the past decade.

“I joined HKSI as Head Coach just before the 2010 Asian Games,” said Griffiths. “Billiard Sports joined HKSI in 2009 when the sport scored enough points to be considered for elite funding as a Tier A sport. This allowed an enhanced budget, a training grant for each player, travel expenses and a Head Coach. Unfortunately for them – that Head Coach turned out to be me!

“I wanted to employ a coach to work with me and I had known Alan Wong from a previous WPBSA coaching course. I knew he was native to Hong Kong and was well respected and liked as a junior coach. I felt Alan’s experience, coupled with his cultural knowledge and language skills made him a perfect addition for the team. Luckily for me, and for everyone else, he decided to take up our offer and join us in April 2011. We have been the core of the coaching team ever since and I couldn’t do without him!

“Michele Nip joined us as a full-time pool coach in 2016 (she had been part-time since 2012) and David Roe joined in the summer of the same year. Michele had brought up the junior pool team from a very young age and has developed them into Asian and World junior champions. David Roe, as a former top 16 professional player, was brought into to give us some high level ‘playing’ and international coaching experience, which I felt brought a good balance to the team overall. Both Michele and David have contributed massively to our achievements here in recent years.

“We also get around three visits per year from Lee Walker and Kelly Fisher as we seek to give the players as many different opportunities to grow and learn from the best. Their experience and input have also proved to be invaluable for us.”

World Women’s Snooker

Jaique Ip Wan In would be the first player from Hong Kong to compete on the World Women’s Snooker Tour, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Championship in both 2008 and 2009. In 2012 she became the first player from Hong Kong to win a ranking event at the Agnes Davies Memorial, defeating compatriot So Man Yan in the final.

At this time the Tour was based exclusively within the UK prior to becoming a subsidiary organisation of the WPBSA in 2015, providing an additional logistical challenge for Jaique and the other players who would join her in subsequent years.

“HKSI started with just four women players (the ‘golden girls’ as I believe they were known) of Ng On Yee, Ip Wan In Jaique, So Man Yan and Yu Ching Ching in 2010,” said Griffiths. “Three of these ladies were gold medal winners at the 2010 Asian Games.

“These four ladies were very keen to travel to international events to test themselves against the best players in the world. To do this we knew we had to come to the UK and enter WWS events.

“Obviously, the travel was an issue for us. It is generally 24 hours door to door for a UK trip from Hong Kong and a 7-8 hour time difference to get over. Fortunately for us however, we were well funded and supported by the HKBSCC, HKSI and the HKSAR Government. This allowed us to travel a few days early to get over the long trip and get some practice at the venue. We learned a lot of lessons along the way and this meant we felt we were getting stronger, on and off the table, with every trip we made.

“Even though we did not manage a win over Reanne Evans early on, we did start to score some positive results against other top players. This gave us all some encouragement and showed that we were moving in the right direction.

“However, Reanne was still the ‘Queen’ and Maria Catalano and Emma Bonney were the other business end players who always were tough to beat. It was around this time we felt things were becoming a little comfortable for the four ladies and we went in search of a ‘Sigmoid Leap’!

“To intensify competition, in 2013 we added another player, Wan Ka Kai, who was selected through a local TID event and went on to be Hong Kong’s second highest WWS ranked player not long after. Since then we have followed this strategy of increasing the members of the team to keep levels of motivation high.”

‘Respect but no fear’

Of course while many players from Hong Kong have gone on to establish themselves on the circuit, the most successful player to date has been our current world number two Ng On Yee, who famously ended the 10-year reign of Reanne Evans at the World Championship in 2015, going on to win the biggest tournament on the calendar three times over a four-year period from 2015-2018 and becoming world number one.

Her WWS debut came four years prior to her first world title when as a 20-year-old she crossed cues with Evans for the first time, losing 4-1 in a match that would launch a healthy rivalry that continues to this day.

“I think this was my first major overseas event with the ladies and I remember it quite vividly,” recalled Griffiths. “Regarding On Yee specifically, she was still developing on the table at that time. However, what encouraged me about her at that event was her attitude. Two things I remember in particular.

“The first was a round robin match against Revanna Umadevi from India. On Yee looked like losing the match at 1-1 and 45+ behind with three reds left. She then fluked a red and cleared with a 50 break to win on the black. This was not a massive break or a critical victory maybe, but it did show me a little about the mental make up of this young player.

“The second thing I remember was the knockout match with Reanne. On Yee did well but was still roundly beaten. However, it was On Yee’s positive attitude before, during and after the match that told me that here we had someone who mentally could mix it with the best.

“There was respect but no fear and a dogged determination to beat Reanne in the future – who at that time was pretty much seen as unbeatable. We set about breaking down what was needed to close the gap and On Yee worked diligently to achieve this. We knew there was some way to go, but that first event showed me that Hong Kong had a special player with the attitude and belief of a champion.”

Ng claimed her first WWS title at the 2012 Northern Championship, before defeating Evans for the first time on her way to winning the 2013 UK Championship. Two years later she would deliver her biggest performance to date as she defeated Evans in the semi-finals of the World Championship in Leeds, before claiming the trophy with a 6-2 success against Emma Bonney in the final.

“During the 2015 World Championship I was actually working down the road with Marco Fu in Sheffield and it was Alan Wong who guided On Yee to what was her biggest win to date. It was a great achievement. To end the reign of a dominant world champion is never easy and we all know what a great competitor Reanne is.

“This victory made sure that On Yee would be seen as one of the top female players in the world. The win made a lot of noise back in Hong Kong and was a massive boost for the sport – and for On Yee personally. In 2016 she received the coveted ‘Best of the Best’ sports award for Hong Kong for her results in 2015 and this launched her as a well-known personality in the region. For a female snooker player to win this award it was a significant step in the sport’s history in Hong Kong.

“We are all so happy to see a player with a great attitude and work ethic, who has listened and acted on the advice she has been given (rather than paying it lip service) to make the most of her talent. On Yee works hard and, maybe more importantly, she works smart. It is not an accident that the best players will be the players who are striving to improve and are never satisfied.

“This desire to get better however, has to be balanced for it not to become negative. On Yee has got this balance just about right now and it has been an honour and a pleasure for us all to be part of her journey to date.”

‘A Journey not a destination’

Since becoming world champion Ng has increasingly had the opportunity to compete against the world’s best male players at events including Q School, Challenge Tour and the 6-Red World Championship in Thailand.

“On Yee has improved considerably in the last 2 – 3 years and her game is getting closer to the men’s level – as the performance against Alan McManus in the 2019 World Championship showed,” said Griffiths. “However, she is a realist and she knows she has some way to go to consistently be at the level she needs to qualify for the men’s game through Q School or other accepted avenues.

“Our feeling has always been that if On Yee is always striving to improve enough to reach the men’s top tier, then we can be sure she will still be at or very near the top of the women’s game. This approach has worked relatively well to date.

“We are always looking for our own marginal gains as we strive to improve all our players in Hong Kong. We collect a lot of data here at HKSI in terms of skills benchmarking and matchplay ability. This factual and measurable data gives us a very good idea of where our players are in terms of reaching the next level. Through gap analysis, we then set about trying to formulate plans that will hopefully see the player improve in the key areas highlighted.

“We see this as a journey and not a destination, and the best On Yee can hope for is that she realises her full potential. If this means she is one of the first female players to play by right on the main tour, it would be an achievement she, and everyone here at the HKSI and the HKBSCC, would be very proud of. In the meantime, however, to quote our mantra here, she will focus on trying ‘to be a better player tomorrow’.

As Ng has continued to achieve success on the women’s circuit, she has been joined by further players from Hong Kong with seven currently ranked inside of the top 30. For each WWS events the HKSI runs an internal selection policy which as Griffiths explains, helps to create pressure situations to test the players.

“We are fortunate enough to have a strong squad of female players here in Hong Kong and they all get excellent support from HKBSCC, HKSI and the Hong Kong Government,” continues Griffiths. “We have no other player quite at On Yee’s level yet, but her ability and achievements are certainly inspiring them all to keep working hard to improve. So Man Yan, Ip Wan In Jaique, Ho Yee Ki, Fong Mei Mei, Cheung Yee Ting and Chu Pui Ying are all very good female players in their own right, and every one of them has supported HKSI with top results in recent years.”

The last decade has not only been significant for players based at the HKSI, but the circuit as a whole which has become more international since coming under the remit of the WPBSA in 2015. New events in mainland Europe, Asia and Oceania have led to the promotion of new talent and new opportunities for players globally, something that Griffiths is supportive of.

“The work done by the WWS team means that the Ladies’ game is now unrecognisable compared to where it was when I first attended in 2011,” explained Griffiths. “The depth and breadth of standard has improved significantly, numbers have increased (competitors and countries) and the events are now run, reported and marketed in a more professional manner.

“The women’s game now has far more respect and a lot more interest around the world. In terms of getting results however, it is has become a lot harder in recent years. Great players from the UK, mainland Europe, and especially now from China (Bai Yulu) and Thailand (Nutcharut Wongharuthai et al) have pushed the standards higher and higher.

“All these things come together to point to a very bright future for the women’s game, and all of us in Hong Kong look forward to be a part of it for many years to come!”

We would like to thank Wayne for his time and we look forward to seeing his team and all of the players from the HKSI again at upcoming tournaments.

Jess Woods Q&A

The staging of the 2018 Australian Women’s Open marked not only the first World Women’s Snooker Tour ranking event to be held in the country, but also saw the return of home player Jessica Woods to the circuit after a two-year absence.

Champion in Australia and Oceania on multiple occasions, the 26-year-old is a formidable competitor who is already back up into the world’s top 30 despite having competed in just three events of the current two-year cycle.

At last year’s World Championship she notably ended a run of 34 consecutive frames won by Ng On Yee at the event dating back to 2017, before also becoming the first player to take a frame from eventual champion Reanne Evans in Thailand at the last 16 stage.

In our latest Q&A we caught up with Jess to learn more about her snooker journey to date and discuss the development of the sport in her home country…

Hi Jess, how are you and how is the situation in Australia at the moment during these strange times?

Things here aren’t as bad as over there [the UK]. The gym and other sporting things being closed is the only way that it has really affected me, but I have a home gym now so that’s not even an issue.

The border between New South Wales and Queensland is closed which is a bit of a pain as well. I am definitely one of the lucky ones though, I have still been working plenty of hours – too many at times! We haven’t been put into lockdown and besides some shops being closed and having to social distance, everything has been normal really.

Have you had access to a snooker table throughout the last few months? We saw you taking part in the Blue Ball Challenge for our friends at World Seniors Snooker a few weeks ago.

Yeah, I am very fortunate to have a table in my house which I have been trying to get on as much as possible around my relatively busy life.

Turning back to before the coronavirus had such an impact on the sporting landscape, how is snooker in Australia in general and in particular women’s snooker?

Snooker in Australia is both good and bad. We have a good open tour with many good quality players on it and the women’s game is reasonably well supported, but like many countries we don’t have many juniors coming though.

Snooker is a pretty unknown sport around here, it has only just recently been added to Fox Sport which is a pay-per-view service so it’s not really on TV. I believe they aren’t going to continue streaming it in the future as well so it’s quite hard for someone to stumble across the sport like they may for football (handegg as many people call our football), many of our tables are in services clubs which are slowly replacing the tables with pokie machines.

Like much of the world I think that we have a long way to see the game reach its full potential but I believe we can do it. Snooker is such a great game for young and old to get involved in.

How did you first become interested in snooker and realise that you had a talent for the sport?

My older brother and dad started playing and I went down to the club with them one day. I played every sport I could growing up but this one just stuck.

I’ll let you know when I do realise I have talent ?

It has been great to see you back in action on our circuit over the past couple of years, of course our new event in Australia together with Frank and his team at the ABSC has helped you to get involved. How have you found the tournament and how important is it for us to have a ranking event in Australia?

I really enjoy the event, it has always been a great part of our calendar but to have Reanne [Evans], the Thai girls and the Hong Kong girls come over makes it a great event for me and a great experience for all of us to compete against the world’s best.

I think you guys are doing a fantastic job at getting more women involved in the game and that means pushing the sport to as many countries and women as possible, within reason of course. As a world body I think it is important to show that you represent the whole world and not just the UK.

You also competed in last year’s World Championship – our biggest for many years both in terms of entry numbers and prize money – how did you find that experience?

It was tough! I think I had the biggest group in both the teams and the singles which made the days very long and tiring but it was a very enjoyable experience. I do find these events tough though, not having a high ranking because I can’t compete in most events means that I get tough groups and draws. I got both Ng On Yee and Reanne in that event, which is fantastic experience for me, but also sort of makes it maybe tougher for me than other girls that are a similar standard to me but are higher ranked.

In the past you also spent time in England, competing at our World Championship from 2014-16. How did you find living/being in England and did it help you to improve your game?

I have spent time in England on many different occasions. I lived there for 11 months a couple of years ago but didn’t actually compete in any events over that time for personal reasons. Living in the UK has its perks for snooker for sure, being surrounded by so many players that have made tons is a new experience for someone from a little Aussie club like me. It is definitely a massive advantage having so many people around you to push you as a player and to learn from.

Who are your snooker heroes/influences?

I don’t really have heroes or influences, I respect many players and love watching them but I have very intrinsic motivations when it comes to snooker. I want to become the best player I can be and that’s what motivates me to put the hours in.

My boyfriend/coach is also a huge factor in that, he is very good at telling me to stop being lazy and get on the table! He has taught me so much about the game I would have otherwise never learnt.

What are your on-table ambitions for the future?

My ambitions are to become the best snooker player I can be. I am very competitive and love winning but it is mostly about the journey. Snooker has given me so much; I have travelled the world and met so many people along the way. Now that I have my apprenticeship that may slow down a bit over the next few years, but I am fortunate to work for my family so can get more time off than most jobs.

What are your hobbies and interests when you are not playing snooker?

I enjoy keeping myself busy, cooking healthy meals and keeping fit is a top priority. Whether that be through going to the gym, going for a surf or playing some Oztag I just like to keep active.

I also enjoy reading quite a lot, whether that be a good novel, or exercise and nutritional sciences, I am always trying to learn and keep mentally sharp.

What can be done in Australia to help encourage more women and girls to take up snooker?

I think it’s very similar here to most other places in the world except snooker isn’t as well known here, many people don’t even know what snooker is when I tell them I play it. Getting snooker more recognised would help I think, many people who were around when Pot Black was on still remember watching it and I often get comments about Eddie Charlton, but no one knows who Neil Robertson is.

Besides just getting more people exposed to the game I think just getting as many juniors involved as possible, whether they are male or female, we just need to get more juniors playing this amazing sport and females should come along with that. Clubs need to think about setting a platform where juniors feel comfortable in a room full of mostly old men, which I often find is more difficult for the young girls, but people like me need to be active in making them as comfortable as possible and making everyone young and old love playing this sport.

Thank you to Jess who like all of our players we are looking forward to seeing back on the baize when the Tour is able to return.