But if you must play Neil, know he’s the defending champ of the UK Championship. Just like Bond who comes back in Casino Royale to win the poker pot, Robertson’s stunning take of 9 of the last 11 frames with lots of pots in the final was enough to beat Mark Selby, the Jester from Leicester, who had been up 5-1. The 2014 version will be at the York Barbican, starting November 25th.
Watching Robertson shoot a 147 is like watching an assassin: the shots are in the best order, with fine cuts, leaving shape, while using superior super strategy throughout. In this 147 he took about 14 minutes. The record for the fastest 147, which is made up of 15 reds with 15 blacks for 120 points, then the yellow, green, brown, blue, pink, and black for another 27, was made by Ronnie “The Rocket” O’Sullivan who wielded the wand of wonder for 5 minutes and 20 seconds. O’Sullivan’s Twitter handle rightly says it all: ‘I have a degree in snooker and I am a genius..haha’
Most people are lucky to have one favorable nickname. Mr. Robertson seems to have three: The Thunder from Down Under; The Melbourne Machine; The Centurion. Despite being the only non-Brit to take snooker’s Triple Crown of The Masters, The World Championship, and the UK Championship, the leftie is rather unheralded at home – despite playing a pleasing, not-too-“safe”- game that entertains, rather than dulls.
And he’s classy like James Bond, a traditionalist not a faddish fashionista, so far as snooker is concerned. He eschews, though doesn't pooh-pooh, the one-frame shoot-out competitions, held at the Blackpool Tower, that are popular with some. It’s just not for him...
For even Robertson, however, snooker can be humbling. Just this September in the Shanghai Masters, Robertson, up 3-0 lost in the first-round to Michael White 5-4! But he can take solace in the fact that he is the FIRST player to amass more than 100 competitive century breaks in one season. And one of his success factors is practicing with a purpose. He doesn't waste time aimlessly puttering around. Another factor is finding a consistent sleeping pattern to cope with the worldwide tournament travel schedules.
Neil figures the current field has more depth than ever, with upsets more common, and this, in part, is because there is less time to prepare for tournaments, being so many more of them.
You know how most of us never work on the weak parts of our game(s) in life? Neil is an exception. Once “break-building” was not a strong part of his snooker play. He made it so by practice, another key to his success (and to the single season 100 competitive century breaks...)
He attributes his relative lack of fame in his homeland to, not only his absence, being out of the country 11 months of the year - but to the Aussies’ love of outdoor sports, like cricket and “Aussie Rules” – Australian football. (Perhaps winning nearly £2 million in prize money over the course of his career, with proficient snooker demonstrated at the tender age of fourteen, helps assuage any hurt feelings of unintended-non awareness back home.)
Besides being tall enough to reach for most shots, Robertson keeps limber, by keeping in shape. He goes to the gym and has added running to his regimen. O’Sullivan’s now a runner too, and both are breaking the fat-slob snooker stereotype to shreds.
And here’s a question that will have combatants verbally tear each other to shreds: is snooker a game or a sport? Robertson feels it’s a sport. Many fans feel it’s a game, like darts.
Whatever you call it, it sure brings out the phenoms and wunderkinds. Mark Selby turned pro at 16. And right now Welsh native 13-year-old Lewis Sinclair has been causing a stir and will be playing the “People’s Champion” Jimmy ‘Whirlwind’ White, the 52-year-old pro. Sinclair wants to eventually go pro...He attends Croeyceiliog school.
Speaking of schools, many kids are scoring better at math and English because of “Cue Zone Into Schools” a program put on by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association to get kids seven and up to learn about functional snooker on six-foot tables. Started in 2013 in the UK, kids with behavioral issues have benefited. Fun while learning. Who’da thunk...
And who would think that weather conditions outside affect snooker playing conditions inside. If it’s humid out there, it can make for poor playing in there, as the cloth is stickier. Mr. Robertson noticed this particularly in some tournaments in China. He also recognizes there is little, other than playing on a more suitable-to-moist weather cloth - that anyone can do about it.
So, all eyes will be on the UK Championship which features, since 2013, all the players starting in the same round. If you can’t be in York, BBC is televising it.
And here, finally, is Neil Robertson telling it like it is in an interview with sports journalist Desmond Kane: ‘Snooker no longer a sport where idle, greedy or lazy can prosper.’