Shaun Murphy has come to the defence of Ronnie O’Sullivan after the latter’s most recent withdrawal.
The Rocket pulled out of the Scottish Open in Edinburgh on the eve of the third Home Nations tournament of this term.
The last-minute nature of the no-show meant that possible top-up placement Alfie Davies was unable to travel to the venue in time, gifting Liam Graham a bye into the last 64.
It’s the sixth time during the 2023/24 snooker season that O’Sullivan has withdrawn from an event citing medical issues.
But while many have been critical of the recent UK champion, he received a word of support from perhaps an unlikely source.
“I’ve seen lots of things written about this,” Shaun Murphy said on the latest episode of the OneFourSeven Snooker Podcast.
“I’m curious. I want to understand and gauge the temperature and opinion of the snooker fraternity.”
“I think there’s quite a bit of misunderstanding here. No one is obliged to play in anything.
“Obviously he and I don’t see eye to eye on many things – everyone knows that – but he’s not obliged to play in anything.
“He’s well within the rules to withdraw from any event that he wants to. The reasons he gives? That’s a different subject.
“But he actually hasn’t done anything wrong by the letter of the law from WST’s point of view, so I’m confused where the narrative comes from.
“I think there is a nuanced difference between someone like Stephen Hendry, who has a tour card and chooses not to enter tournaments, versus someone who enters tournaments and withdraws last minute.
“Those two things are slightly different, and if you look at it from the point of view of the first reserve in this case, who is Anthony Davies’ son Alfie, he got the call to go to Edinburgh four or five hours before – it was completely undoable.
“Now, if O’Sullivan knew he had no intention of going and withdrew last minute, that’s not very good, because that obviously spoils the opportunity for young Mr. Davies.
“But you have no option in these cases but to take the player at their word.
“O’Sullivan has again cited health concerns, and I go back to what I said in the podcast a few episodes ago, he has had it really bad in recent times.
“He has been really poorly. He has been really ill, and to be that ill and to pull out of that many events on medical grounds, and then still turn up and win the UK Championship is incredible really.
“I think halfway through the tournament, it coincided with the exact date that Ronnie won that event 30 years ago,” Murphy later added.
“I remember watching that as a kid dreaming of becoming a snooker player, watching this young man who had just turned pro.”
“He was seven or eight years ahead of me on the journey, beating Stephen Hendry in the final of the UK Championship.
“It was an inspirational moment. You think, wow it’s somebody who’s young and it can be done.
“For that same person to still be at the top of the game – I’m sure he’d say differently to this – but arguably playing as well as he has ever played is phenomenal.
“His ability to play snooker to such a high level is incredible.”
Murphy was also asked about his opinions on the ongoing saga between the World Snooker Tour and its players concerning contracts, players’ rights, and the possibility of a breakaway tour.
“This thing isn’t going to go away – the serious battle between the players, and the WPBSA players’ body that represents them, and WST with their players contract.”
“This isn’t going anywhere. It’s only going to increase in velocity and in seriousness, because these two parties are going to clash over this.
“I’m not sure which way it’s going to go. It’s a big week this week in snooker politically. We’ve got the AGM of the WPBSA and the elections to the WPBSA Players Board.
“Such is the interest in this – normally you have to crowbar players into these meetings and nominations – there are three spots available and there are seven candidates.
“That’s the first time in history that there are more candidates than spaces.
“Depending on who gets through the candidacy and the nomination process, if certain members find their way onto that board, that could cause WST a headache going forward.
“I know a few of the players who have put themselves forward have this as one of their key mandates to try to get a fairer and better deal out of WST.
“You know, we want a review of the contract. We want it looked at, we want to sit down and talk. It’s going to be interesting.”
Last week, meanwhile, Shaun Murphy became the first player in history to compile a 147 break at the Snooker Shoot Out.
The 41 year-old produced the moment of magic in his first-round match with Bulscú Révész, with many already regarding the maximum effort as among the best ever.
“I still can’t believe it’s really happened to be completely honest,” the Magician told podcast co-host Phil Seymour.
“I haven’t been playing great in recent weeks, my form hasn’t been that good, and it just came out of nowhere. I was as surprised as anybody.”
Featured photo credit: WST