Nottinghamshire’s elite are gearing up to take on the rest of England in a brand new national snooker league.
And the championship is the brainchild of Tony Morgan, of The Towers Snooker Club in Mansfield and Jimmy Gratton, from Belper.
The National (English) County Championship will see counties from across the country battling it out.
So far 20 counties have signed up to the competition, which has been ratified and will be run by the national governing body EASB - the English Association of Snooker & Billiards.
A trials day was held at The Towers to determine the ‘A’ and ‘B’ squad for Nottinghamshire and was open to all players living in the county.
Scores on the trials day determined the make-up of the squads and while each county can have 24 registered, only eight will be selected for any one match.
Tony, of Kirkby, is the captain of the ‘A’ side and said: “The idea with the open trials was no matter who you are, who you play for, your age - if you are good enough on the day, you are selected.
“That way we have the best players in the county representing Nottinghamshire, pitting ourselves against the rest of the country.
“My original idea was for a Super League of clubs from across a few counties but it quickly gathered momentum and the idea of a national league of counties has come together.”
Tony (43), himself almost turned professional when he was younger, after playing on the local circuit in south Wales with the like of Matthew Stevens, Darren Morgan and Mark Fenton, also competing against Mark J Williams, who went on to become World Champion and World number one.
When he was 16 he made a choice over a toss of a coin to pursue a snooker career or join the Army. He lost the toss and joined the Army on leaving school.
His highest competitive break is a maximum 147 and now he can’t wait to get the chance to compete against other top amateurs on the national stage.
There have been county matches before but only in friendlies in an unofficial capacity, with no national set-up.
“I arranged a meeting with several other County Captains at Cueball, in Derby, earlier this year and the EASB attended and liked the idea,” said Tony.
“It has since been sanctioned as competition and the EASB will run it, so it is brilliant that the national governing body has come on board.
“John Hartley, who is the EASB Competitions Director and Company Secretary, has sent me a message to say how excited they are about this.
“He feels the County event on a national level could be just what is needed to get grassroots snooker back off the ground and they are delighted the idea has received such support at this level, so the groundwork has paid off to make this happen.”
Nottinghamshire includes star players like Joe Reynolds, the U14 English Champion, a competition once won by Judd Trump.
The quality was evident when Nottinghamshire’s ‘A’ and ‘B’ team came together in a warm-up match which resulted in a 61-20 victory for the ‘A’ team.
It was a nine-man-a-side friendly and the man-of-the-match award for the ‘A’ side was a close affair between Ash Walker and John Fountain.
Both players didn’t drop a frame (winning all 9) but Walker just edged it with a superb 131 clearance. He nearly had another century in the next frame, but missed a pink on 97 with only one red remaining.
The ‘B’ team man-of-the-match award went to Dan Moll with some very good wins while the highest break went to young Reynolds with a very good 59.
Vinny Dennis (34) from Bilsthorpe, will captain the Nottinghamshire ‘B’ team and believes the league will help raise the profile of amateur snooker while the open trials method will unearth otherwise unseen talent.
He said: “It is a great idea and for it to bring together so many counties is excellent for the sport, the players and the competition.
“Too many snooker halls are closing down and not enough young kids playing. Snooker is a great game and we want to attract as many players to the sport as we can.”
Eight players per team will compete in each match, playing one-frame against each opponent, a total of 64 frames making up a match.
The England-wide competition will feature regional groups with the top teams from each area coming together at a national finals weekend to determine England’s top county.
The league aims to get underway this autumn and to find out more, go to www.easb.co.uk or the Facebook page for Nottinghamshire County ‘A’ & ‘B’ Snooker Team