Pat Davies is the new Poolmania champion ushering in yet another name in the tournament’s Hall of Fame. Yet despite Pat being the fifth consecutive champion to have never won the honour before, Poolmania IX witnessed a collective collapse from each of the previous winners, paving the way for Pat but also new title-hungry challengers – or maybe two in particular? Joe Newbury explains why this could be a new dawn in the sport’s history where a rivalry may flourish.
I remember leaving Riley’s Canton with Greg Davies after he had just won his record fourth Poolmania title. He was quietly content with winning the tournament and although he proved his absolute dominance over TTFE players and friends alike, there was an air of despondency to his victory too. Now Greg is a modest man – as I’m sure you’ll know, so I took his following comments with more attention than the regular ego-centric banter you’d expect from another Poolmania champ we all know and love (no names here!). He looked at me and said, ‘It’s all too easy’ with an almost sigh. To be fair, he wasn’t wrong and it certainly looked that way back then. Before James Carling broke through Greg’s stranglehold on the title, it never looked likely to go elsewhere (although Pat did give him a real good go when they met in Poomania II). Greg is the towering Leviathan the game respected and still does, but in truth, he was the Goliath that needed to be toppled; meaning aspiring Davids needed to up their game to bring him down.
And so they did. Ever since that night, Greg hasn’t touched the crown since (sorry Greg!). His stature in the seedings has made sure he’s always in with a shout, but the Davids have come and reigned. Carling, then Chris, then Dale, then Karl and now Pat. Poolmania has undergone a transformation after years of a Merthyr-centric monopoly on the star prize – and it’s never been more competitive. That’s just the start too – more and more players are entering and enriching the Poolmania pool of talent, ensuring that if you win the tournament you will be indeed pushed to do so. That said however, I believe Poolmania may even be nearing a brand new phase as we near the landmark 10th meeting in February 2014, with the seeds sown in the events leading up to Pat’s victory.
How have I come to this conclusion? To start, each of this year’s semi finalists had never won the title before – meaning all the previous champs had faltered by that point. They were all there too; two fell at the group stage, three at the quarter finals, assuring us that Poolmania would have its sixth champion. But the main reason I feel we may embarking on a changing trend is the performance of two particular players who lit up the tournament and made striking statements for the old order to take notice. I refer to the winner Pat but also to debutant Rich, who I reckon you need to keep an eye on in future years. Grabbing third place and defeating the title holder is no easy feat, but that was exactly what he achieved. Pat betters his debut by making the Poolmania II final on his first attempt but that loss in the final to Greg remains his only loss. I know that Pat was a whisker away from disqualification on the night, but when it came to his play on the night he was on fire. Both Pat and Rich met twice on the night and Pat won both encounters, but I feel in time to come that these players have the ability to develop a healthy rivalry which could dominate the sport. Ovett and Coe? Davies and Hinchly?
But what about the finalist Callum Gigg? He’s still knocking on the door and has been for a while, reminiscent of a battling Karl Manley or a passionate Jon Pride before he went down under. He will be disappointed with his performance in the final and perhaps it shows his time is yet to come. And for me, well I’m encouraged that I have improved with a second semi final in a row, but I know my locker needs to be better equipped if I’m gonna take the trophy. That’s why I feel that if Rich and Pat are here to stay, they have the potential to win titles between them for fun if the opposition cannot rise up to them.
On that note – it’s extremely foolish to say that the previous champs will take their green jackets and head out to pasture. Was it a bad day at the office for them? They’re all smarting right now and I know they’ll be back gunning for their next title. Whoa be tied anyone who writes them off, especially Greg, who I know wants title #5 more than a Tesco Quiche Lorraine, which I also know is very high up in his list of simple pleasures. Carling’s current nightmare funk will undoubtedly pass, especially when he gets his head down in the knockout phase. Chris, Karl and Dale have the confidence to do it, whether it comes blatantly for all to see on a T-shirt or quietly through steely determination on the table. Each of these players will be back and will compete, to oust the next Goliath when the time comes – I have no doubt about that. The question is – when will that time come?
So I’ll end my article back with the Merthyr Maestro himself. At this year’s Poolmania he was reminiscing with Carling about the days where they were on top, referring to it as a ‘golden age’. Carling was leaving the tournament early after failing to make the knockout stage – a first. It was that comment which threw me back to that night in May 2009, when Poolmania needed a real infusion of competitiveness. Now when the tables have turned, it reminds me how cyclical sport tends to be – you only have to look at the rollercoaster of fortunes for Welsh rugby to see that. Looking back, I believe Greg got what he wanted from that night, even if it the proof of this looks as barren as the Arsenal trophy cabinet. Perhaps this change in fortunes is down to the supernatural, rather than reasons human. Was there a deal with the devil that night in deepest, darkest Canton?! And to end with one last question – would he undo the Faustian Pact for another taste of glory? I leave that one for you to answer.