In a sport often identified with gentlemen and cigars, women are now playing a leading role.
Kim Ivett was born into the game. Her father John was a top player and has been a championship level referee for 40 years.
Kim used to watch him and soon developed a love for the game.
“Dad told me if I wanted to referee I really should get some playing experience,” said Kim.
“I played for a few years and did quite well, but was never going to be championship material, so I took up refereeing.”
Kim is now among the most qualified and experienced women’s referees in the world. She works the professional European circuit and the World Snooker Pro Tour.
In June she joined her father as referees at the Pacific International Billiards Round Robin Open Championship, followed by the Australian National Billiards Championship, at the Reventon Snooker Academy in Yarraville – an event supported by the Victorian Government’s Significant Sporting Events Program.
The success of the Open in attracting top players is due to the intense work of local officials and administrators such Tournament Director and President of Billiards Australia Jason Colebrook.
He said the event has become a magnet for overseas players as it’s now a sanctioned Oceania rankings tournament. Players this year included World number one billiards player Peter Gilchrist from Singapore and players from eight countries.
The Open is also rare in that it allows male, female and players with a disability to enter and play each other.
Two-time world disability billiards and snooker champion Raja Subramanian from India loves coming here.
“It gives me the chance to play against the best in the world,” he said. “That experience is fantastic for my game.”
Raja said the other attraction was playing on the beautiful tables which he ranked among the best in the world.
Alcocks have been making tables in Melbourne for more than 150 years. Their tables are used in championships around the world and they are major sponsors of the Open and other local events.
Another Victorian woman making inroads into the sport in Anna Lynch.
You would question what do a concert pianist and the Victorian women’s billiards champion have in common.
“The ability to hold intense concentration,” said Anna.
Unlike Kim, Anna was not born into the sport. She used to play eight ball at the local pool hall when one of the owners recognised her potential and linked with the Victorian Billiards and Snooker Association.
After less than seven months she entered her first tournament and quickly worked her way up the rankings.
“I love the skill of the game,” she said, “and women’s snooker really growing so I’m focusing on that as well now”.
Anna said neither billiards nor being a concert pianist really paid the bills at the moment, so she supplements her passions by working fulltime as a music teacher.
In July women’s snooker in Australia was given a major boost, with the announcement Australia will host its first world ranking event as part of the World Female Snooker Tour in October.