A Tasmanian has been awarded number one seed for the state’s “groundbreaking” national ranking tournament this weekend.
Burnie-born Kurt Dunham has returned from a two-year stint in the UK and headlines a field of 77 set to compete in the inaugural Ron Atkins Classic, named in honour of the state’s most prominent cue player.
The Classic marks the state’s debut national ranking tournament and Tasmanian Billiards and Snooker Association president Rex Swain is determined it won’t be the last.
“Although Tasmania has been fairly successful on the national scene we’ve not been able to do a national ranking tournament in Tasmania before so this is groundbreaking for us, it’s a very important tournament,” Swain said.
“We’ve got this time slot now in May each year to be part of the national ranking scheme, which is about 12 events, and we’ll be working very hard to keep that going.”
Australia’s second-top player in the world rankings, Dunham will be put to the test by the country’s third-ranked international player, tournament second seed Matthew Bolton.
The pair will face stiff competition from some of the country’s top-ranked players including top-10 Victorians Aaron Mahoney, Johl Younger and Mifsud brothers Steve and James.
Other fancied mainland competitors include New South Welshman and 2016 Australian Open champion Roger Farebrother and three-time billiards world champion Robby Foldvari.
Tasmania’s top-ranked national player Cale Barrett will join Dunham and Launceston champion Graeme Pickett among the top hometown hopes, while Tasmania’s most prolific player Les Higgins remains in the country’s top 150.
Alex Pace and Burnie’s Josh Burns represent the state’s most promising players.
“Barrett, Pace and Burns - they’re our future,” Swain said.
“They’re the sort of players that we need to be doing this for because each time they’ve wanted to play in a national ranking tournament they’ve had to go to the mainland and they’ve been at a disadvantage.”
The tournament will be officially opened at the Launceston Workers’ Club at 6pm on Thursday and will conclude with the semi-finals and final at Country Club Tasmania from 9.30am Sunday.