FOR two Mount Gambier blackball players, a trip to the world titles in Bridlington, England is something that will remain with them for many years to come.
The pair represented Australia in the Blackball World Championships as part of the masters team and while they did not make the finals, it did not take any of the shine off the experience.
Mark Walker and Fred Newton both headed across to contest the tournament, with the plan to enjoy their time in England and hopefully return with some positive results.
For Walker it was his second time at such an event, after contesting the Nations Cup last year, but for Newton it was his first time out of Australia.
The experience certainly left its mark on him.
“It was a big thing to wear the green and gold for Australia,” Newton said.
“You cannot explain the atmosphere when you walk in – it was huge.
“I have won lots of tournaments, but if you put all my accolades in one heap along side that, I would just take that trip.”
The team finished top 10 overall, while Walker and Newton managed equal fifth in the doubles.
Personally Walker finished in the last 32 players, while Newton made the last 64.
As a team the Australians went down to Wales in the first match 16-9, 13-12 to Ireland and then beat Gibraltar 20-5.
Catalonia claimed another close win 13-12, Australia defeated France 15-10, but then went down to South Africa 17-8.
In final games England won 16-9, Scotland claimed the honours 15-10 and Northern Ireland won 17-8.
Walker said Scotland was a tough prospect, with a former world champion and ex-professional player in their ranks.
“In that game I played five games and won four, while Fred played three games and won two,” he said.
“We both beat the former world champion and the ex-pro which was good.”
Walker said it was a tougher tournament than the Nations Cup last year, with extra teams competing which only enter the world titles.
But with just a couple of wins off making the finals, he said it was a solid effort.
Likewise Newton was pleased with their results.
The tables were far different than the pair were used to playing eightball on in Australia, with no nap to help control the speed of the ball.
“The cloth was lightning fast,” Newton said.
“If I knew what I know now, we would have arrived a couple of days earlier to practice on the tables.
“We got to Bridlington the day before it started and had a couple of games in the pub.
“We did not know you could practice on the tables.
“The pockets are also cut a bit different and they know the tables.
“I am definitely not disappointed how we went because those two 12-13 losses, if we won those we would have made the finals.
“We certainly were not disgraced.”
For Walker the results were just as pleasing, while the overall trip was again another great experience.
He said one of the highlights of the tournament was a player dubbed Darren “Skippy” Madden.
Madden is a disabled player, with short arms who uses his mouth to hold the cue.
“He was unbelievable,” Walker said.
“I took a video of him and he potted six balls straight.
“He could not break because he did not have the strength to do that, but it is amazing what he does.”
But on the tournament itself, Walker was quite emphatic.
“It was a great experience,” he said.
“I think it is one of the best things you could possibly do.
“I have spoken to a couple of young blokes here and said if they get the chance, they want to do it.
“I always said I would never worry about it, but now I have played it, I would do it again no worries at all.”