To mark the end of the first full season covered on SnookerHQ, I decided to follow the lead of many of the other blogs who have had End-of-Season Awards Ceremonies (ceremonies?) in the past.
To add to the fun, I have enlisted two of the website’s regular and loyal contributors in club owner Fin Ruane and Irish player Johnny ‘Sniper’ Williams.
Before we see who has won what, a quick thank you to both of these guys for their efforts throughout the campaign in helping to make this a more interesting and informative place for snooker fans to come and visit. Their help is very much appreciated.
There are no awards being brandished this year for blogs, forums, tweeters, etc.
At this stage, you all will know what the best ones are and rather than get into trouble for forgetting somebody I will just say that the ones I hold in the highest regard are linked on the left. (Anybody who isn’t linked and thinks they should be don’t hunt me down and beat me up; send me an email and we’ll sort it out pronto for next season.)
However, one specific shout-out does go out to the Snookerbacker Blog, whose Snookerbacker Classic was one of the highlights of the year. A fantastic initiative for amateur players across both the UK and Ireland.
And finally a big thank you to everybody who visits the site. Bringing the sport to a wider community is what makes it all worthwhile.
But now the fun bit and the 2012 SHQ Awards…..
Player of the Season
Nominees: Ronnie O’Sullivan, Stephen Lee, Judd Trump, Neil Robertson, Stephen Maguire
Fin: My Player of the Season has to be Ronnie O’Sullivan, the new world champion has defied the critics and along with his victory in the German Masters has shown everyone what a snooker talent he is. I’ve been impressed with his professionalism both on and off the table this season, he’s enjoying snooker again and even though he has hinted at missing several months of the new season, a fit and content with life O’Sullivan can only be good for the game.
Sniper: Player of the Season for me would be Judd Trump. I have to say, even though I despise his attitude and the way he plays sometimes, he has been very consistent, jumped up in the rankings and rankings say it all for me.
SHQ: It can only really be Ronnie O’Sullivan, can’t it? He won the first and last events of a long campaign and added a further three in between. His performance in the World Championship was on a par with the best of his career and when he is on top form there is simply nobody better.
Comeback Player of the Season
Nominees: Stephen Lee, Peter Ebdon, Ali Carter, Ryan Day, David Gilbert
Fin: Two contenders here, Peter Ebdon won the China Open from basically nowhere but didn’t really kick on from that and was very dissappointing. But for me the comeback player of the season has to be Stephen Lee. He has reignited his snooker career from nowhere and his victory in the PTC Grand Finals which followed his runner-up spot at the World Open has propelled him back into the top 8 ranked players in the world.
Sniper: My Comeback Player of the Season was very close to being my player of the season and that is Stephen Lee. He had a terrific run of ranking event semi-finals and then the PTC Grand Finals triumph win this season. The reason he was not my player of the season was that he just didn’t perform on the big stage when he needed to.
SHQ: Semi-final in Germany, quarter-final in Wales (when he was robbed by an ill-timed mobile phone ringing), final of the World Open, winner of PTC Grand Finals, semi-final in China. This one is a no-brainer – Stephen Lee.
Breakthrough Player of the Season
Nominees: Mark Allen (breaking his semi-final duck, winning ranker), Jamie Jones (reaching World Champs last 8), Stuart Bingham (winning in Australia)
Fin: Only one winner for me here and that’s Jamie Jones. He enjoyed a great run in the PTC Grand Finals and followed that up with a fantastic run in the World Championship to reach the quarter-finals only to lose to runner-up Ali Carter. He’s a very high scorer amongst the balls, with an equally good safety game, there is no question he has the temperament for the big occasion and I can see him pushing for a top 16 place next season.
Sniper: Jamie Jones. He showed terrific character and bottle in the world champs, has had a very good season overall and is climbing the rankings very fast, not to mention his unorthodox way of cueing makes me even more impressed with this lad. Mark Allen has done well winning a ranking event but for me this should have been done many times by now for his talent and how good he “thinks” he is sometimes.
SHQ: Tough one for me – they all have a strong case to win this one and I’m a big admirer of Jamie Jones and what he has achieved this year. However, the award goes to Mark Allen. The Northern Irishman may have already been established as a top pro but his struggles to get beyond the last four in tournaments had been well documented. Reaching the final of the UK and grabbing his maiden silverware at the World Open confirmed his emergence into the big-time.
Controversy of the Season
Nominees: Mark Allen (UK Championship rant), Mark Allen (Twittergate: dead cats, Chinese are ignorant), Mark Allen (Chinese players are cheats), Eirian Williams (red or pink Shanghai Masters final), Mark Williams (Crucible’s a s***hole).
Fin: Again only one winner here and that’s Mark Allen for his Chinese players are cheats accusation. He’s a fantastic talent and this season a ranking event winner but he needs to take a long hard look at himself and act more professional than what he has done. Not only were his comments idiotic but they were without foundation and I fully expect the WPBSA to hand out some sort of punishment in relation to the comments he made in Sheffield.
Sniper: No surprises for who will win my vote for biggest controversy. Indeed it is Mark Allen, for his comments he made about Chinese people being ignorant, the dead cats and the smell of China and hygiene, etc. Hearing he is hated over there and might not be able to attend certain events because of his foul mouth speaks for itself – silly, silly comments. Don’t bit off the hand that feeds you.
SHQ: Eirian Williams. No, only joking. This is a tie for me between Mark Allen and, erm, Mark Allen. Both of his comments regarding China, its people, its snooker players and its cats would be almost laughable if it just wasn’t so serious.
Nominees: Luca Brecel, Adam Duffy, Cao Yupeng, Sam Craigie
Fin: Simply because of his run to reach the Crucible it has to be Luca Brecel. The 17 year-old beat four experienced match players and tour regulars in Ian McCulloch, Barry Pinches, Michael Holt and Mark King to reach the final stages. His run eventually ended at the hands of Stephen Maguire but that disappointment was soon turned to happiness when it was announced he will receive a wild card invite on to the Main Tour next season.
Sniper: It has to be Luca Brecel for me. He didn’t have the greatest season before the Worlds, but he showed true grit and determination in some of his qualifiers. At times he came from behind, had some great wins including an excellent deciding frame thriller over Michael Holt. Nothing seems to faze him. If anything he is just a little careless (careless?) and maybe too quick at times but for me he is very natural and has the most potential. One for the future.
SHQ: Adam Duffy would have been an absolute shoo-in for this gong if it wasn’t for Luca Brecel‘s late gallop towards the final hurdle. The Belgian came from nowhere to prove his worth as one of the hottest prospects in town by becoming the youngest player ever to compete at the Crucible.
Match of the Season
Nominees: Trump vs Allen UK final, Trump vs O’Sullivan PTC Antwerp final, Lee vs Robertson World Open Last 16 (5 centuries in 7 frames), O’Sullivan vs Maguire German Masters final, Carter vs Trump World Championshiop Last 16
Fin: Lots of great matches but Trump v O’Sullivan in the PTC Final in Antwerp was without doubt the finest exhibition of snooker I have seen in many a season. I sat transfixed to the tv that Sunday evening watching that final of pure class which saw Trump edge out O’Sullivan. The only complaint I had was that it was only the best of seven!
Sniper: Match of the season for me has to be Trump and O’Sullivan in the PTC 9 final. I remember putting up a status saying I’ve never witnessed anything like it, one visit frames, both players showing no fear, precision break building of the highest quality.
SHQ: Trump vs Allen in the UK Championship final. While Trump and O’Sullivan was an exhibition of epic proportions, the fact remains that it was only a best of 7. It still would have won this category only for the fact that Trump and Allen served up an equally barnstorming affair of attacking snooker in York – this time over the course of a best of 19 format that ended in Trump claiming his first major title 10-8.
Nominees: World Championship, UK Championship, German Masters, Shanghai Masters
Fin: Every event has provided great snooker but for me it has to he the World Championship. The first few days alone provided more drama both on and off the table which set the tone for the following two weeks.
Sniper: Unfortunately, I have to go with the German Masters on this occasion. I say unfortunately because the atmosphere in Sheffield was just not there for me. Last year was amazing with Trump-Higgins, but this one was always gonna be one-sided for me, Ronnie was clear favourite and had his fans but for atmosphere it wasn’t the best. The German Masters on the other hand was new, refreshing, and the crowds were amazing. It’s very popular in Germany.
SHQ: The World Championship. The drama tailed off somewhat as the fortnight progressed but the opening week was one of the most dramatic in memory. Shocks, a 147, a high-profile retirement, umpteen cases of controversy and a worthy champion. It had it all.
Moment of the Season
Fin: Lots to choose from but for me there is only one moment and that was the legend Stephen Hendry’s maximum in the World Championship. A break of pure excellence not only because he had several tough balls to pot throughout the break but the emotion he showed when he potted the final black showed what it had meant to him as unbeknown to us at the time he knew this was his final year playing in the Crucible.
Sniper: My moment of the Pro Season was Ronnie lifting the World trophy for the fourth time. He has been battling his demons for the last few years, had people writing him off, talking about quitting , and people saying he is an underachiever. Not to mention his amazing 92 break against Carter. My favourite moment of the amateur season has to be the final between TJ Dowling and Vincent Muldoon in Carlow. Two players playing out of their skin, not missing, amazing break building, just an amazing final, and me with front row seats.
SHQ: Ronnie’s 92, Ronnie lifting the World title and Allen’s duct-tape press conference are all in with a shout. But the moment of the season was Stephen Hendry’s press conference when he announced his retirement from the professional game. A monumental moment in the sport but to be there and witness it was a monumental moment for myself.
Irish Amateur of the Season
Nominees: Rodney Goggins, Brendan O’Donoghue, Joe Delaney, Vincent Muldoon
Fin: A tough one but I’m going to go for Joe Delaney. He’s currently number two on the rankings behind Rodney Goggins after his recent ranking event win in Navan. This season Joe has combined playing in the PTCs with playing on the amateur circuit in Ireland to try to win his tour card back. Although now that the main tour place has been taken from Ireland Joe has entered Q-School and will battle hard to regain his place on the Main Tour.
Sniper: Irish Amateur of the Season for me is Rodney Goggins. He has been clearly the most consistent, is number 1 in the rankings by a long way, and the only person I havent been able to beat on the Irish circuit the past few years – an achievement in itself for Rodney. Rodney never loses to players who are not on the top of their game and even when he himself isn’t playing great he still manages to win.
SHQ: Having not seen much first-hand this season it is difficult to accurately judge this one but the stats speak for themselves. Four semi-finals, a runner-up and two victories in the seven ranking events this season. The inaugural winner of this award is Rodney Goggins.
And so concludes a memorable, thrilling and exhausting 2011/12 campaign.
In years gone by I would be saying farewell until September. Now, I bid you farewell until the start of the next season…this weekend!