Eddie Charlton

Resolutely determined snooker player

Eddie Charlton was one of professional snooker's hardest competitors, with a career spanning three decades. Three times a runner-up in the world championship, he was also an accomplished billiards and pool player with a never-say-die attitude. He often seemed an immovable presence at the table: stubbornly refusing to budge until the final ball had gone down.

Eddie Charlton, snooker and billiards player: born Merewether, New South Wales 31 October 1929; twice married (four sons, one daughter); died Palmerston North, New Zealand 7 November 2004.

Eddie Charlton was one of professional snooker's hardest competitors, with a career spanning three decades. Three times a runner-up in the world championship, he was also an accomplished billiards and pool player with a never-say-die attitude. He often seemed an immovable presence at the table: stubbornly refusing to budge until the final ball had gone down.

Born in Merewether, New South Wales in 1929, Charlton first played snooker at the age of nine at his grandfather's club but enjoyed a range of other sporting interests during his formative years. He was a keen cricketer and boxer, played senior grade football for 10 years and was part of the Swansea Belmont Club crowned Australian National Surfing champions in 1950. Charlton was especially proud of being asked to carry the torch during its journey through Melbourne at the 1956 Olympic Games.

Working as a coal miner, Charlton turned professional in 1963 and won the Australian Championship 20 times in 21 years, his only defeat coming in 1968, the same year he made the first of around 200 trips to the UK, where snooker was entering a boom period.

Charlton, known affectionately as "Steady Eddie" because of his methodical approach to the game, was one of the most resolutely determined players to emerge when colour television breathed life into the sport in the late 1960s.

He was a regular on the BBC series Pot Black, which first showcased the game for British audiences and led to such an explosion of viewer interest that television companies were soon clamouring for tournaments to screen. Charlton, a contemporary of the other greats of the 1970s - Ray Reardon, John Spencer and Alex Higgins - won the Pot Black title three times and when the first ranking list was introduced in 1976, he entered as world No 3.

He remained there for five years and as part of the game's élite top 16 for 10 seasons, spending a further seven ranked inside the world's top 32. However, his real heart's desire, the world championship title, eluded him.

Charlton's first attempt was in 1968, when John Pulman beat him 39-34. Five years later, Reardon defeated him 38-32 and beat him again in 1975 in what proved to be the most disappointing result of Charlton's long career. He seemed certain to clinch the title when he opened a 29-25 lead over Reardon at the Nunawading Basketball Centre in Melbourne. However, a missed brown cost him the next frame and gave Reardon the second wind he needed to turn the match around. He beat Charlton 31-30 in a close finish to the dismay of the partisan crowd.

Inevitably, the defeat hurt but Charlton remained utterly focused on fighting for every point of every frame. He became renowned for his unremitting hard-man blend of snooker, heavily dominated by tactics and safety play. This approach paid off when he won the 1976 World Matchplay, the biggest title of his career.

He was in the world championship semi-finals again in 1979 and, once again, fought tooth and nail but Terry Griffiths proved up to the task and earned a 19-17 victory before going on to win the title.

Charlton remained a constant presence at leading tournaments for the next decade, appearing in a total of seven ranking event semi-finals and 13 quarter-finals. Evidence of his unshakeable desire to win was clear at the 1989 world championship, where he fought for 10 hours, 24 minutes to battle past the Canadian Cliff Thorburn 10-9, the match finally ending at 2.40am.

He twice unsuccessfully challenged Rex Williams for the World Billiards title and finished runner-up to Mark Wildman in the 1984 final by the slender margin of 1,045-1,012.

Charlton reached the final of the only staging of the World Seniors Championship, in 1991, but was beaten 5-4 by Cliff Wilson having led 4-2. In 1992, he endured the ignominy of becoming the first player to fail to win a frame at Sheffield's Crucible Theatre, venue for the world championship and the game's spiritual home. His 10-0 defeat to John Parrott in the first round remains as the only Crucible whitewash.

As the circuit expanded to over 700 players in the 1990s, Charlton, who spent several years as a member of the BBC commentary team, began to slip down the rankings, eventually retiring in 1996 and returning to Australia where he still competed in pool events. He had been ill for the last few years with a tumour and died after a heart attack following an operation while on a trip to New Zealand.

Charlton received the Australian Order of Merit in 1980 and the Australian Sports Medal in 2001. In 1993, he was given a special award by the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association for his services to the game.

David Hendon

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