The state’s top eightball juniors will test their wares against the nation’s best this week when Country Club Tasmania hosts the national junior titles.
Tasmanian trio Hayden Esposito, Jonty McIvor, Jordan Pyke are among a field of 21 players seeking to make the six-strong national under-18 squad, which will be chosen from performances at the championships.
Two under-15 players, Evandale 12-year-old Mitchell Shadbolt and Nile 12-year-old Alex Rigby, will have the chance to represent their state little more than 20 kilometres from where they train at the Prince of Wales Hotel.
Both regularly compete against adults, but will get the chance to challenge players their own age when the week-long championships kick off Thursday.
“I’ve been playing for five years now,” Shadbolt said.
“One day I just picked up a cue and started hitting balls round and then I just got into it.
“I reckon we’ll go pretty good - some people won’t, some people will, it just depends how nervous they are.”
The tournament comes less than a year after the Country Club hosted the inaugural Ron Atkins Classic in what has been a big 12 months for cue sports in the state’s North.
Eightball Tasmania events manager Andrew Saltmarsh said the home side would not be out of its depth, citing national representative Cale Barrett, who will open the championships, among a list of talented players to have emerged from the state in recent times.
“Over the last few years the game’s really progressed for the kids - probably thanks to a lot of events now are live streamed from Youtube, so it sort of gives a bit more for kids to be able to watch and learn from the senior players,” he said.
“The numbers probably haven’t increased a lot, but the talent and what they can do and practise has probably helped a bit in that sense.
“But over the years Tassie has definitely held its own as far as producing talent for this event.”
About 70 players from every state and territory bar New South Wales will play in the championships, with divisions catering for under-12s, under-15s and under-18s.
Play will run from 9am to 6pm daily, with the exception of an 11am start on the opening day, until the championships wrap up on Wednesday.
- Under-18 boys: Hayden Esposito, Jonty McIvor, Jordan Pyke
- Under-18 girls: Abbey Barton, Shaepera Gray (Queensland)
- Under-15 boys: Connor Pearce, Blake Rawlings, Alex Rigby (representing ACT), Mitchell Shadbolt
- Under-12 boys: Blake Riley
- Under-12 girls: Shanara Esposito