Thursday, 16 August 2012

A good night had by all

The Premier League always had big boots to fill this season in the absence of the format's master, Ronnie O'Sullivan.

But if tonight's showing in Skegness was anything to go by, we're in for an absolute treat this season.

O'Sullivan has enjoyed so much success in the Premier League that he has become synonymous with it.

He has lifted the trophy seven times in the last eight years and boasts an incredible ten triumphs in total. Snooker journalist Dave Hendon said earlier this week that the Premier League without The Rocket "is a bit like getting tickets to see The Beatles (back in the day) and discovering there was no John Lennon. Or Paul McCartney."

He has a point. O'Sullivan is the master of the shot clock and while the loss of the defending champion, the world champion and the biggest box office attraction in the game is a huge dent, the show must, and will go on.

If the first night's showing is anything to go by, we need not worry a shred.

On an entertaining night of action, Ding Junhui beat Shaun Murphy 4-2 in a match of very high quality and this year's favourite, Judd Trump, kicked off his campaign with an impressive 5-1 defeat of Stephen Lee. It was great to watch snooker back on the TV and in front of a good crowd again.

Judd proved he's the man for centre stage and Ding showed again how good he really can be.

Some fans of snooker that consider themselves purists are staunchly against the Premier League and everything it stands for. The omission of O'Sullivan has done little to deter their protests against a format they view as pointless and a watered-down version of the game.

It is difficult to argue that although more open than any year before, victory for any of the 10 players in this year's tournament would have some shine taken off because of Ronnie's absence.

But the competition should be far stiffer and I remain a big fan.

The Premier League is the fourth longest running event after the three majors and still holds great prestige, especially among the players. You only have to look at the reaction of players such as Stuart Bingham and Mark Allen when they qualified for the first time this season to understand that it carries great weight and is thought of as highly as some ranking events.

I'm not the kind of snooker fan who would like to see the shot clock employed in the ranking events but I think its inclusion here adds variety and reaffirms the Premier League as an event which offers a good night out for your average fan.

The Premier League always offers high quality and is a great showcase event for the world's top players and latest tournament winners. The money on offer is a great motivator for the players too.

Its round robin format, although different, doesn't make it too dissimilar to what would traditionally be considered as snooker on a match by match basis.

The Premier League is back and I enjoyed it once again. I think it continues to complement the serious business of snooker well.

Long may it continue.

Click here for a full run down of this year's Premier League format, groups, dates, venues and matches.

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