Latest News

Pint-sized snooker player's big break: 9-year-old chalks up success to cool head

Nine year old Kāpiti schoolboy Riley James is off to China to represent NZ at the under 18 World Amateur Snooker Championships.

It's one big table for one small person but Riley James makes it look like child's play.

The 9-year-old Kāpiti boy might have trouble reaching over the snooker table but that doesn't stop him potting ball after ball.

Recently chosen to represent New Zealand in July's under-18 world championships in China, the key to success was keeping cool, he said.


Riley James says snooker is a tactical game.

"It's a mental game and a physical one. If you're going to get angry you'll lose so you may as well quit."

Riley first picked up his snooker cue as an 8-year-old, but he was already a dab hand at pool after learning the game at age 5.

1526435970518 1

Snooker player Riley James,9, is representing New Zealand this July at the World Amatuer Championiship in China.

"I liked snooker more because it's a serious, tactical, competition game; pool is more something you can play without thinking about it."

Snooker tables are larger than pool or billiard tables and are lower to the ground.

The game is played with 22 balls and opponents attempt to score more points than each other by potting balls into the table's six holes. Players also try to 'snooker' their opponent, forcing them to make a mistake and give away points.

It's a serious game for the Kenakena School pupil who trains about 30 hours a week and travels to Stratford every fortnight for coaching.

"It's important to be be fit because you walk around the table a lot. I also lift weights so I can hit the ball even harder."

It was his talent on the pool tables at Paraparaumu's Club Vista that first got him noticed by the snooker community, Riley's dad Garry James said.

"Everyone convinced him to try playing on the big snooker tables and that was the beginning."

Snooker player Chris Barnett said he was astounded by Riley's ability and began to coach him. 

"He's the sort of talent that comes along once in a generation. Cue action is the important thing and he's a natural – smooth flowing and deadly."

Unlike most child players, he played with an adult-sized cue and was the youngest person to represent the country at snooker, he said.

In March, former New Zealand snooker coach Stan Bunn took Riley on and a month later he was offered a place in the three-person team for China; his team mates are both 15.

Riley said the prospect of playing in front of hundreds at the championships made him "ever so slightly nervous" but he was taking it in his stride.

"Because it's a mental game I have to make sure I keep my confidence and that's usually not a problem."