As a calendar year draws to its close, there’s the inevitable chatter across social media and beyond concerning who the best team or player was in a particular sport.
Snooker is no different and although the big Player of the Year awards are generally handed out at the end of seasons in this sport, rather than years, it still seems fitting to take some time to reflect on who owned the last twelve months.
Last December, Mark Selby was one of the most obvious picks in many a moon but the decision isn’t as straightforward on this occasion.
The “Jester”, who has been laughing himself all the way to the bank after eclipsing the million pound mark in the world rankings standings, is naturally a key player again in the conversation but this year he is rivalled by at least one other contender.
Of course, that’s Ronnie O’Sullivan.
For Selby, the 34 year-old became only the fifth cueist in the Crucible era to claim three World Championship crowns after his successful defence in May.
That Selby overcame John Higgins in the final, a player he had lost to in his maiden major final appearance ten years previously and who some believe Selby has surpassed as one of the best all-round players ever, is a testament to the Englishman’s ability to win when it counts the most.
Selby rounded off last season by not only collecting the silverware in Sheffield but by breaking the so-called “Curse of the China Open” too, becoming the first player to win both events back-to-back at the end of a campaign.
The runaway world number one’s form tailed off somewhat in the second half of the year but he still managed to raise his game enough to defend another lucrative title, the International Championship in Daqing.
O’Sullivan, though, has been equally as impressive in 2017, if not marginally more so.
The “Rocket” launched one of his busiest years on the circuit in trademark fashion by capturing a record-breaking seventh Masters title in January.
It all went a bit quiet before the 42 year-old exploded into action again from the summer and concluded this term by producing some of the best snooker of his illustrious career.
Three ranking titles in the space of fewer than two months, including a sixth UK Championship that brings him on a par with Steve Davis on the all-time list and a couple of other notable runners-up spots in invitationals, highlights what a marvellous period it has been for O’Sullivan.
In that time, the records were tumbling as, not only did he make new ground in a pair of Triple Crown events, O’Sullivan surpassed 900 century breaks to boot and moved to within only five more tournament victories of matching Stephen Hendry’s once unthinkable career ranking event tally of 36.
O’Sullivan managed all this while still causing controversy on and off the baize, undertaking an entertaining trip across America hustling pool for a new TV show, and releasing the latest fictional novel Double Kiss in one of his newer, more outlandish, ventures.
On the table O’Sullivan has demonstrated once again why he is both the most talented and the best player to have ever raised a cue and, when he wants to be, is simply unbeatable.
For these reasons, Ronnie O’Sullivan is SnookerHQ’s Player of the Year for 2017.
A brief mention too must go to Judd Trump, who reached five ranking event finals during this year – a cool quarter of the total staged between January and December.
That Trump could only translate those appearances into two victories and because of his lacklustre displays in the Triple Crown events, it’s impossible to truly include him in this debate but, if he can sort out the latter equation and find a killer instinct in the majors, he could genuinely become a force to be reckoned with.
Yet, this year will be mostly remembered for O’Sullivan and Selby’s brilliance and wouldn’t it be sweet if the pair could face each other in the final of the upcoming Masters at the Alexandra Palace to begin the new year in style?
I know what my New Year’s wish is!
On Friday, we’ll continue our look back at this year with the Big Snooker Quiz of 2017. Get studying!