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Robertson and Perry Preview The Season

With the 23/24 campaign in its embryonic stages, we travelled to WT’s Sports Bar in Cambridge where we caught up with two great friends, Neil Robertson and Joe Perry, to chat about the season ahead.

The pair both dropped below their usual high standards last term. In the 21/22 season they experienced high points as Perry claimed an emotional first title on UK soil at the Welsh Open, while Robertson scored four tournament wins. Last year Perry only registered one quarter-final appearance and Robertson failed to pick up ranking silverware.

Australia’s Robertson and Englishman Perry are now hungry to put that right this season with the return of events in China and the calendar stacking up. We spoke to them about a range of topics…

Perry on the benefits of practising in a club with Robertson:

“Cambridge is one of my favourite places. I’ve spent many years in this club as a professional playing. I’m hoping to spend a lot more time here this season. I didn’t put enough work in last year, so I need to come over and spend some more time picking balls out for Neil. It definitely helps. The last ten years I’ve been doing it and I think we both benefitted from that. We were sharper throughout the season. I’ll be doing that a lot more.

“There are a few academies opening up (across the UK) but they aren’t for everyone. Some people don’t know they are going to take snooker up for a living. They just take it up as a hobby, they are good at it and then they go from there. A dad will take his young son or daughter up to the club, but they aren’t going to take them to an academy in professional conditions. If you bring them to a facility and a club like this and they like it, then who knows what the future holds.”

Robertson on the last two seasons and getting to work earlier for the new campaign:

“It’s been two different sorts of season. I had my best ever season and then in the one just gone I didn’t live up to the same standard. I didn’t get off to the greatest of starts. I chose not to play in a few events and had a longer break. I felt I was playing catch up throughout the season. This year I am trying to start much earlier and hopefully that can pay off and I’ll hit the ground running.

“There’s a lot of hunger there. I didn’t get the success that I am used to last season. That only encourages me more to practise harder and get back to those winning ways. I look at that as an exciting challenge, not that I had a sub standard season and get down on myself. I want to hit the ground running and have a good one.”

Robertson and Perry on the impact of Luca Brecel’s World Championship victory:

Robertson said: “My son came in (whilst Neil was watching Brecel’s semi-final against Si Jiahui) and said at 14-5 down this guy must be crap. Then Luca had won the frame and started playing all these exhibition shots, which my son had never seen before. He stayed and watched the remainder of the session and a lot of the final. He was really excited by that. Hopefully this will inspire a lot of younger kids to want to play. Snooker probably needs to be more attacking. Some of the criticism of the World Championship was that games were going too long and not inspiring the younger generation. That is hard to do. I’ve been there myself getting bogged down in matches, but it is important to remember who is watching and we do play in an entertainment sport. That is what Luca grasped perfectly well. He played a brand of snooker that was so great to watch, hopefully it can inspire younger generations.”

Perry said: “It was outstanding. It could have been any tournament the way Luca was bowling round the table. He’s got such a wonderful style and such a great temperament for the game. It was good to see him finally produce his best stuff at the Crucible. To go from never winning a game there, to winning the tournament, is pretty special. You look at the draw he had, I don’t think the writing was ever on the wall but the way he beat Mark Williams and then coming from behind to beat Ronnie O’Sullivan. He had a massive deficit in the semi-final. Then, for me, the acid test was beating Mark Selby in a world final. He’s done it the hard way and hopefully it opens up a lot more avenues into Europe.”

Robertson and Perry on the top guns misfiring last season:

Robertson said: “I think last season was a bit of a freak year. There were a lot of strange results going on. I think myself, Ronnie and John had spectacular seasons before that. John was in six finals, I won four of the biggest events and Ronnie won the World Championship. For me personally, I felt as if I needed a break going into last season and took too much time off. I was playing catch up and just didn’t quite convert the chances.”

Perry said: “We’ve been quick in the past to write off some of the greats of the game. We just expect at some point it is going to come to an end for the likes of John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan, because they’ve been there for so long. Whenever we make the mistake of thinking it is the start of the decline they bounce back and have their best ever season. I won’t be writing them off for a long time. They are greats of the game and we will probably never see the likes again over that period of longevity.”

Watch the full interview here: