Billiards Australia: In what part of England do you live?
Rob: Lincoln, East Midlands.
Billiards Australia: Do you have a day job?
Rob: Yes, my family own a hotel and conference centre and I'm a manager there.
Billiards Australia: How old were you when you first started playing? Where was the billiard room?
Rob: I started playing at 14 at a locally run coaching scheme. I was introduced to the scheme by a school friend.
Billiards Australia: Did you start with billiards or snooker? (If snooker, how long until you began playing billiards)?
Rob: I started playing Snooker first but only for about six months before I got started on learning Billiards.
Billiards Australia: Who was your first coach (or who first showed you the basic billiard shots)?
Rob: It was a gentleman called Roger Clark, he was the guy running the coaching scheme I started at. A reasonable player himself (top match break of 178). He taught me all the shots I needed to make my first 100 break.
Billiards Australia: How long before you made your first 100 break at billiards? Do you still remember that day?
Rob: It took me about a year before I made my first century in practice, it was against a good friend at my local Snooker Club. It was a 112 break and after I was leaping around like a mad man.
Billiards Australia: When you were a young man improving, before you won your first major event, how many hours a week did you practice?
Rob: I would say I practiced for around 16 hours a week. Mostly after school and sometimes while I should have been at school :)
Billiards Australia: What are your current high breaks in competition and in practice?
Rob: Match Break: 553, Practice Break: 1123.
Billiards Australia: If you watch sport on TV (not billiards and snooker) – what do you watch?
Rob: Cycling (it's my second biggest passion behind Billiards). Football (soccer), Tennis, Darts.
Billiards Australia: Who do you admire most in sport (not cue sports) and why?
Rob: Roger Federer as he's the ultimate professional. He seems to ooze class be it on the court or off. A lot of other high profile figures in sport could learn a lot from him.
Billiards Australia: Who has helped you the most with your game over the years?
Rob: Other than my first coach Roger I've not had a lot of help from others. I've found over the years that watching better players than myself at every opportunity is the best way to learn. There's no person that can help you more than yourself.
Billiards Australia: How many different cues have you used in competition over the years?
Rob: Only two.
Billiards Australia: Tell us about your current cue – how long have you had it, how long is it, how much does it weigh, maple or ash, what size and what brand tip do you use.
Rob: I've been using my current cue for about 5 years now. It's a Dave Coutts handmade cue that's 57.5in. It weighs 17.25oz and has a stiff wide grain ash shaft. I use a 10mm Brunswick Blue Diamond Plus tip. I have the tips compressed for 24hrs before fitting to firm them up further.
Billiards Australia: What do you think of the alternate formats to timed matches? Which do you enjoy?
Rob: I think there is a place in our game for the 100/150-up format as it gives a regular finish to periods of play as frames do in snooker. I think promoting the game to the public who have very little knowledge of the game should be done using the short format. However, being a true Billiards lover I think the timed format is by far the best as you get to see big breaks and the game being played the way it was intended to be played. I don't think there's a place in the game for the long up format. Just can't see the point in it.
Billiards Australia: How much time do you put into practice these days? Do you prefer solo practice, or match practice? Do you have a regular practice partner? Do you have your own table, and if not, where do you practice?
Rob: I try and practice at least an hour a day throughout the season and I step that up on the lead up to big tournaments to refine my touch and gain total confidence in my game. 99% of my practice is solo practice as I don't have and can't find a regular practice partner. It's always been that way so it doesn't bother me at all. I have the luxury of my own table so I can practice whenever I want.
Billiards Australia: Of all the billiard players you have seen play, who do you admire the most and why?
Rob: I've seen all the top players of the current era and there are some class acts playing at the minute. I have huge admiration for them all. Gilchrist, Causier, Advani and Bolton are all great in their own individual styles but by far the best of this era and I believe one of the best of all time is Mike Russell. The touch, concentration, knowledge and impeccable technique are the qualities that have taken him to the top of the game. His list of achievements is just ridiculous.
Billiards Australia: Would you like to give us an Englishman’s view on the split between WBL and IBSF?
Rob: It was a great shame that the split happened in 2015 and they way it happened really damaged the game. WBL and IBSF were going from strength to strength, building a strong reputable World Championships as a joint venture with all the top players competing - and then the IBSF officials pulled their support. This meant the Indians and a few other overseas players couldn't play in Leeds due to funding restrictions as the event now being non IBSF. The bottom line is that it's set the game back several years and undone a lot of hard work done throughout that time. It really is very sad.
Billiards Australia: The day you arrive at a tournament, to get the feel of the tables, do you have a set solo routine or are you happy to just knock the balls around with another player?
Rob: The first thing I do is get settled into the accommodation and get some rest. Then I'll try and get some time on the tables to figure out the throw and the speed of the cloths as well as getting a feel for my cueing. Doing this by yourself is the best way. However, as we all know all tables play differently so there's no way of gauging all the tables before the tournament starts.
Billiards Australia: We are going to see you in Sydney in September for the International Challenge at Killara Golf Club (incorporating an exhibition), and also featuring Ian Chappell and some of Australia’s top players. Are you looking forward to that?
Rob: Of course, it's always great to play in front of spectators. I hoping it will be good fun with a bit of banter between the players. I haven't played in Sydney since 2005 so it'll be good to be back.
Billiards Australia: What sort of things do you usually include in an exhibition?
Rob: With the exhibitions I do here in the UK I try to keep the atmosphere light-hearted and have some fun with the crowd and opponents. When I play local amateurs I usually give them a start over a timed format so it gives me a challenge and also gives the locals a chance of winning. This also helps generate a good atmosphere. After play has finished I'd usually conclude with a Q&A session giving advice to anyone who wants it.
Billiards Australia: Anything in particular you want to see or do when you’re in Sydney?
Rob: I would like to do the usual tourist things. Sydney Harbour Bridge, Opera House etc. as last time I was there I didn't really take them in. I'd also like to take a trip out to Bondi beach. I'm also partial to a cold beer so sampling a few whilst in Sydney will be on the cards at some point.
Billiards Australia: Do you think there is any particular weakness in your game – anything you would like to do better (technical or mental).
Rob: I don't think there's a particular weakness but there's always room for improvements. Technically I think I'm pretty sound. Concentration is where I think I could improve the most but it's an area where it's difficult to find advice or information on ways to improve. One thing is for sure, I'll never stop trying to better myself and my game. Once you do that you're basically giving up.
Billiards Australia: What is your proudest achievement in billiards?
Rob: There have been many and I think these proud achievements change in stature as you get better as a player. As a youngster winning a local championship was a huge achievement and then as your game progresses and you win a regional event then a national event and then an international event your concept of previous achievements seem to change. My first English National title was something that I'll never forget, along with winning the UK Championship in April this year. I've also been to two world championship finals and although I haven't yet won one I still take pride in getting to them.
Billiards Australia: What is your next goal in billiards? More championships? A 1000 break in competition? Something else?
Rob: There is one end goal and that is to be World Champion and whatever feats happen on the way to achieving this will be a bonus. You have to set your sights at the top in order to finally get there.
Billiards Australia: As one of the younger men playing billiards at the top level, what is your view of the traditions of the game? Do you think the “vest and bow tie” look is still the way forward for a sport that struggles to attract younger players?
Rob: I'm very much a traditionalist when it comes to Billiards. There's nothing like turning up to an event with all the players in waistcoats (vests) and bow ties to realise there's something important going on. This aspect of the game should to passed onto our youngsters so it is never lost. We need to keep our formal image so people realise it's the greatest game of all. As I said earlier I believe the timed format is the best as you can play the game as it was invented to be played. The way it was played in the golden era of the game when that Lindrum bloke played a bit.
Billiards Australia: What do you think of the proposed rule changes? Are there any rules you think need changing?
Rob: Anything to eradicate the endless negative play in the short format matches can only be a good thing. So making a double-baulk a foul stroke would get my vote. I think the timed format rules should remain unchanged. There are no problems there.
Billiards Australia: Thanks for your time Rob.