STARS IN OUR BACKYARD

Neil Robertson shoots a frame for the Addy on Friday afternoon.

Neil Robertson shoots a frame for the Addy on Friday afternoon.

VIDEO: NEIL RORBERTSON SHOOTS A FRAME WITH THE ADDY

AUSTRALIAN GOLDFIELDS OPEN HQ 

WITH snooker far from a mainstream sport here in Australia, there are many people in Bendigo who would have only had a passing interest - or none at all - in what’s just unfolded in their own backyard.

For the fourth year in a row the Bendigo Stadium has hosted the $500,000 Australian Goldfields Snooker Open, and it has again been a raging success.

Names such as Neil Robertson (world No.2), Barry Hawkins (No.4), Judd Trump (No.6), Shaun Murphy (No.7), Mark Allen (No.9) and Stuart Bingham (No.10) are hardly household here in Bendigo.

But to put those world top 10 snooker names into some perspective with a comparison to tennis, think Novak Djokovic (world No.2), Roger Federer (No.4), Thomas Berdych (No.6), David Ferrer (No.7), Milos Raonic (No.9) and Ernests Gulbis (No.10)

Imagine those six tennis stars - all ranked equivalently in their sport to the afore-mentioned snooker names - playing a week-long tournament at the Bendigo Tennis Association’s Nolan Street courts.

On the snooker stage, that’s what Bendigo has just played host to, plus many more of the world's best.

To give some further perspective to just how significant the tournament in our humble little regional stadium has been, the Australian Goldfields Open was beamed live into about 170 million homes around the world.

Extraordinary numbers, especially when you consider the packages included as part of the TV coverage that highlighted the city of Bendigo.

What a marketing tool for the City of Greater Bendigo’s tourism department.

One of the highlights of my time covering sport in Bendigo was the chance on Friday afteroon to watch Australia’s Neil Robertson up close shoot a frame for an Addy video (pictured) and listen to him talk through the psychology of his shots and the strategy in striking the right balance between playing safe and when to take risks.

For a hack like me who has plenty of trouble just beating my much younger cousin on his backyard shed pool table, it was certainly an eye-opening experience, and to use the tennis analogy again, was the equivalent of a one-on-one lesson with Djokovic.

Robertson - who grew up in Ringwood and now lives in Cambridge in England - has had to carry the weight of expectation at this year’s Bendigo tournament.

He’s not only the home country favourite, but he’s desperate to add the Australian title to his CV that includes 10 world ranking tournament victories, as well as the 2010 world championship. 

The 32-year-old, who a week ago won the Wuxi Classic in China, faced off against the man with the movie star name - Judd Trump - in Sunday’s final that started at 2pm and was due to go well into the night in the best-of-17 frames.

The mental strength of the elite players - one game in 1985 between Steve Davis and Dennis Taylor lasted nearly 15 hours - to match their sublime skills where they seem to have those billiard balls on a string is equally as remarkable.

Snooker is the ultimate game of skill and strategy and to have had the world’s best showing their wares in our backyard, Bendigo has certainly been spoilt the past week.

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