ROD LAWLER isn’t going to win any prizes for speed snooker but he has been quietly effective for the last two years, ever since it looked like his professional career was at an end.
Lawler dropped off the tour in 2012. At 40, there seemed to be no way back. But displaying an effort of will many younger players could learn from, he got himself back on the circuit through Q School and started to find some confidence.
A PTC win and a run to last season’s German Masters semi-finals helped boost his ranking position. Today he faces Judd Trump in the last 16 of the Coral UK Championship in York where victory will put him inside the top 32.
It was Trump who beat Lawler 6-1 in their Berlin semi. Afterwards he pointed out that, though Lawler is one of the slowest players in the game, he is still attacking. His modus operandi is not to mess up the table. He just takes time over his shots.
Lawler’s first round Barbican win over Alex Borg did not conclude until 1.45am. The man has some serious stamina.
Referees have it in their discretion to warn players they believe are taking too long over shots through the time wasting rule. Some have done this privately backstage, others less subtly in the arena.
However, players who are methodical from shot one would have to slow down considerably to be warned because they are still playing their natural game. If, say, Tony Drago started taking a minute over every shot then this would be viewed as deliberate because that isn’t his game.
A shot-clock of some description may regulate play. Some players are all for this, but slow play in general is not a problem.
If everyone played to Lawler’s pace then we’d need another week to complete the tournament but, by the standards of some of the stars of yesteryear – though this is conveniently forgotten by many halcyonic nostalgics – he plays a positive game. He just takes his time to play it.
Trump must guard against becoming frustrated but at least he knows what’s coming. He suffered a morale-sapping defeat to Lawler at the 2011 Welsh Open qualifiers at around the time when the online knives were out for him. Trump, his critics said, was not the real deal at all. He couldn’t be if he wasn’t beating old stagers down the ranking list.
Well, he used the Lawler defeat in part as inspiration and blitzed his way to the China Open title, the world final and, later that year, the UK Championship crown.
Trump is scoring more heavily than anyone else this season, with 35 centuries to his name already. He looks super confident and back to the form he demonstrated three years ago when he scooped the title.
Lawler will provide obstinate opposition. His resurgence proves that if you try, try and try again, good things can happen.
But in snookers version of the tortoise and the hare, he will need to produce something special if he is to cause an upset this afternoon.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.