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Taranaki Junior Academy Snooker Team rising stars

New Zealand Snooker Academy Team Photo: Courtesy of Taranaki Daily News
New Zealand Snooker Academy Team Photo: Courtesy of Taranaki Daily News

Four New Plymouth snooker players are on cue to be rising stars, and a TSB Community Trust grant has helped to ensure they get to the next level.

Desmond Wilcox, Ryan King, Adam Lilley and Mario Hildred each received an Individual Grant from the Trust after being selected to play Australia in Auckland in March 2015, as the New Zealand Academy Junior Snooker Team. They then went on to play at the Oceania Snooker Champs (under 21 and open) at the same venue. Des was the top performer, reaching the quarter finals.

Katherine Swain, Adam's mother, said there was no way that the teens could have made it to the competition without the support of TSB Community Trust. They played for 10 consecutive days, met New Zealand professional Dene O'Kane and rubbed shoulders with other world class players. 

"It was a big thing for these boys, that they were mixing in these international circles". Since returning from the champs, Ryan and Adam had learned that McDonald's would sponsor them. "It's all starting to come together for them. If it had not been for that initial funding the next step would not have happened for them.  It was very important" she said.

Cue sports are not big in New Zealand, so its an achievement to have four national representative players from one region. All are members of the New Plymouth Club where they have received mentoring from the likes of local man Kelvin Dunlop since they were 11 years old. 

The national head coach Gary Gilliard coaches the Taranaki foursome and rates them as being amongst the best in the country.Living in the same region has a natural advantage. "They are practicing with other world class players. "It's very, very good for their game".

Despite talent however, the funding environment is tough and it's hard for teenagers and their families to source the thousands required. "Our parent body has little funding and relies on sponsorship and grants. Every little bit helps these boys".