Who’s Going to Australia?

The final qualifying round for the Australian Open takes place later today as 16 players seek to book their trip to Bendigo next month.

For many reasons, the Australian Open hasn’t really captured the imagination of most of the top competitors.

One reason for this is the low prize fund that means that you have to get very far in the competition to earn a just reward following expenses for an event that has the status of being a full ranker.

Another grievance with the players is that some are disappointed that it isn’t staged in one of Australia’s more well-known and bigger cities – like Melbourne or Sydney.

This is the last year in the current contract signed between World Snooker and the Australian promoters and it would take a rather foolish betting person to stake a house on the tournament returning again next season.

Of course, it might, and there are many people who hope it does.

Best efforts are being made to extend live coverage of snooker to a global audience and staging a tournament Down Under significantly aids this.

Crowds have been decent at the venue the first two years the Australian Open was held and I’m sure it’ll be no different this time around.

Yet, the reach for the sport is minimal in Australia – a country that is more well know for its love of outdoor sports than that of its indoor ones, aside from maybe swimming.

In a rollercoaster and mentally exhausting season, many players have decided to skip the Aussie competition but those who have entered will be eagerly hoping to make the last 32 – whether it turns out to be the last time in Australia or not.

And the final qualifying round is littered with names both old and new.

Jimmy White has enjoyed a good start to the new campaign having won all three of his encounters so far and he faces Ben Woollaston to qualify for his second successive ranking event.

Tony Drago has a lot of work to do to remain on the Main Tour after an ultimately disappointing season last time around but meets Ryan Day after coming through a hat-trick of rounds already.

Irish duo Ken Doherty and Fergal O’Brien will play Simon Bedford and James Wattana respectively while Nigel Bond takes on rising youngster Michael White.

Belgian teenage superstar is back in form and will hope to see off the ever-inconsistent Jamie Cope while China’s Xiao Guodong and Robbie Williams of England do battle, as do Zhang Anda and David Gilbert.

Mark King v Paul Davison, Mark Joyce v Alfie Burden, Matthew Selt v Ian Burns and Peter Ebdon v Mike Dunn are all-English affairs with Thai pair Noppon Saengkham and Dechawat Poomjaeng up against Jamies Jones and Burnett.

Finally, England and Scotland go head to head with Liam Highfield taking on Marcus Campbell and Scott Donaldson challenging Rory McLeod.

The full draw can be viewed by clicking here

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