Melton goes snooker loopy as Ronnie O’Sullivan comes to town
Snooker legend Ronnie O’Sullivan took Melton by storm on Saturday, with a thrilling evening’s entertainment - and he enjoyed the experience so much that he wants to come back.
Excitement had been growing in the days leading up to the six-time world champion’s visit to Jackson’s lounge and ‘The Rocket’ did not disappoint.
The snooker hall had been transformed into a staging area with space for 110 spectators for the event, which had sold out within a matter of days.
And as the start time approached there was a buzz outside as the queue of ticket-holders, eagerly waiting to get inside the club to see their hero, stretched down King Street into Market Place.
Another snooker legend, John Virgo, was compère for the evening and before play got underway he warmed up the crowd with some trick shots involving the audience, along with his witty repartee.
Eight lucky people took on The Rocket - with world-class referee Brendan Moore officiating.
Virgo introduced each player before they entered the hall to walk-on music they had chosen but despite some glimmers of hope none of them were able to pull off a shock upset.
Jackson’s assistant manager Karl Barratt was proud to be the only player to take a lead over Ronnie when he went 10-0 up and the highest break of a challenger went to Stuart Hammond with 22.
It was a real thrill for all who got the chance to take on the sporting superstar.
Ronnie, whose highest break was 114 on the night, is often called the most naturally gifted and greatest player of all time. Known for his fast and attacking style the event gave the popular 45-year-old Londoner the chance to wow the audience with his incredible skills.
During the interval fans had the chance to get autographs and chat with Ronnie as well as have a photograph taken with his World Championship trophy.
It was the snooker legend’s first visit to Melton and he was full of praise for the town and the club.
“It’s good to be here,” he said. “The club is lovely, the crowd are great - very knowledgable about snooker. I hope to come again.”
Although Ronnie’s opponents never expected to get much of a look-in he was complimentary about their skills.
“It’s tough when you’re only playing one frame,” he commented.
“There were some good shots played, there are some good potters.”
One of Ronnie’s opponents Stuart Hammond used the opportunity to raise nearly £700 for MIND, the mental health charity.
Ronnie, who has struggled with depression in the past said: “It’s good that people are talking more about these issues and considering people’s well-being. Sports people struggling with mental health problems shouldn’t be penalised.”
Ronnie says he’s enjoying his snooker at the moment: “During the past few years I’ve been playing more exhibitions as well as the tour. I’m happy with how things are at the moment. It’s good to have a balance.”
Jason Francis, creator of Snooker Legends events, praised Jackson’s owner, Ben Jackson, for the hard work he had put in to making the event happen.
And the day after his Melton appearance, Ronnie posted on Twitter: “Well done Ben for all the hard work you’ve put into getting Jackson’s club to where it is now. Look forward to coming back.”
There were also dozens of positive comments on the club’s Facebook page.
Ben said that although it had taken a lot of planning and hard graft he was delighted the event had been such a huge success.