Robertson's crusade: When Aussie Neil became king of the Crucible

By Sports Desk April 18, 2020

Neil Robertson left Australia for England as a 16-year-old with £500 in his pocket and a snooker cue he dreamt would unlock the door to fame and fortune.

A false start or two followed, but 12 years later the ball-potting, modern-day Dick Whittington was wrapped up in the arms of mum Alison after getting his hands on the World Championship trophy.

Later, Robertson would parade the glistening silverware at the MCG, as his AFL first loves the Collingwood Magpies tackled the St Kilda Saints.

It was 2010, and the Melbourne boy had come good, becoming the first snooker world champion from outside the British Isles since Canadian Cliff Thorburn 30 years earlier.

Here is a 10-year anniversary look at how Robertson took his step into snooker legend, as he admits surprise visitors from Down Under almost knocked him out of his stride.

GET CARTER

Robertson beat resurgent six-time world champion Steve Davis in the quarter-finals, before taking charge early against Ali Carter in their semi-final and refusing to relinquish his grip.

Future wife Mille was days away from giving birth to their first child, but Robertson's focus was absolute and he powered to a 17-12 victory, earning a first Crucible world final appearance.

'HEY, SWEETIE, WE'RE LEAVING SINGAPORE'

Robertson's mother had been keeping a close eye on his matches from the other side of the planet, and a leap of faith led her to book flights to London.

"She'd come across without me even knowing," Robertson said.

"She and her partner Chris booked tickets when I was 6-2 up in my semi-final, thinking maybe they'd never have the chance again to see me in the final.

"So after I beat Ali in the semi-final, I switched on my phone and there was a message saying 'Hey sweetie, I've just seen that you’re 10-6 up in the semi-final, we're leaving Singapore and then we’ll arrive and hopefully you're in the final'.

"It was all really rushed. They got a taxi up from Heathrow and emotionally that was a huge moment for me.

"It was the first time I'd seen my mum for nearly a year. I'd always go home in the summer off-season and then wouldn't see them for 10 months, but here she was to watch me in the world final."

THE PRESSURE MOUNTS

Stoked to see his mum, Robertson was still worried her presence might prove a distraction against Scottish battler GraDott.

"It put a huge amount of pressure on me," Robertson said.

"The first session, I was almost in tears when I came out and saw her and waved at her. I actually had tears and had to really compose myself because it's not long before you're hitting the balls.

"I was 5-3 down after the first session but managed to turn it around in the end."

AUSTRALIA TOOK NOTICE

Robertson has spent most of his career without a great deal of attention from the Australian media, but a gaggle of reporters showed up in Sheffield for the climax against Dott.

He did his fellow Aussies back home a favour too, getting across the winning line 18-13 against Dott at 12.54am - desperately late in Sheffield, England, but mid-morning in Melbourne.

"When I potted the winning ball I blew a kiss up to my mum, who was up on the balcony. I had all these weird instant flashbacks to all the hard work and everything I’d had to sacrifice and all I'd been through to get to that point," Robertson said.

"I've flown my dad over every year since. I've told him I'll fly him over every year until I win it again. I'd love to win it with him there as well, and he doesn't add any pressure because I know that he's coming.

"When my mum arrived like that - 'Surprise!' - I was in the heat of the moment."

SAME AGAIN THIS YEAR?

Robertson hoped to return to the Crucible Theatre this month to mount another title challenge, only for the coronavirus pandemic to quash that prospect.

The World Snooker Tour is planning for a rescheduled July start to the 17-day marathon, but it could be a behind-closed-doors event.

Writing on Twitter, Robertson, now 38, said in those circumstances it would be "better to play than not".

Crowds or no crowds, the Thunder from Down Under would have his work cut out to beat the wonder of that first triumph.

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    Relations became strained as Ozil shifted from eye-catching centrepiece to expensive luxury. The focus had switched from how much he produced on the ball to what he didn't do without it. The phasing-out process began during the Unai Emery reign, then led to him being completely ostracised by former team-mate Mikel Arteta.

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