Tribute to Steve Wilman

Steve Wilman collecting a prize from Derek Townsend at 2015 Yorkshire Presentation evening

Steve played his first match in the Bradford & District Sunday School Billiards League as a teenager on 13th February 1968, for Gt Horton Methodist B 2nds, losing 120 – 83 to Gt Horton Cricket Club veteran Norman Coates. Perhaps being preferred to his father, who played his solitary game of that season 3 weeks before and lost 120-67 to a youthful Mick McCabe, in what would be a ‘derby’ fixture against Gt Horton Methodist B 2nds. Steve didn’t however get another game that season

Gt Horton Meths then had 4 teams (2 in the First Team League and 2 in the Second Team League) and also 4 tables. The following year they entered a 5th team and Steve gained a regular place in the new team and started off with a win away at Prospect Methodists against another young player Chris Langwade. Then it was a team handicap with second team games being 120 up off a level start. In the new team Steve slotted in at number 3 and consequently didn’t end the season with a plus average. In fact, he had a minus average in both the following 2 seasons, but then individual handicaps came along in the summer of 1971 and Steve was given Rec 100. He made slow progress and 6 years later had only moved to Rec 90, but remarkably, in the 34 seasons he has played since individual handicaps were introduced (He’s had 14 seasons off in 2 spells) his handicap has only gone up twice in the 1980’s, both times from Rec 20 to Rec 30, and once in 2000 from Scratch to Rec 10 but on each of the 3 occasions the increase has been reversed the following year. So it has been pretty much continuous improvement and after a 3 year break, he returned  9 years ago, on Scratch and has progressed to Owe 50 this year and was well on the way to another reduction next year.

Steve also, of course, played for many years in the South Bradford League for both The Harold Club and Gt Horton Conservatives and I’m sure with similar distinction and respect.

He was always a tough opponent, modest in victory and gracious in defeat. He will be greatly missed throughout the league by teammates and opponents alike. Several years ago I had difficulty persuading him he was good enough to represent Bradford in the Yorkshire League, but after persistently pursuing him, he finally agreed, and after winning a few matches found that he fit in very nicely. In recent years he, Paul Devitt and I have travelled to away matches together in the same car, along with our loyal supporter Bill Oates, and strong friendships were formed which we will all sorely miss. Over the last couple of years or so Steve has had the confidence to enter a few competitions outside the local leagues and notable successes have been winning the Yorkshire Billiards Handicap last year and coming through the local qualifying area of the English Championship to qualify for the Intermediate (last 32 nationally) stage this season, which ironically was being played the weekend of his death. He was also waiting to hear if he had qualified for the finals day of the English Grand Masters (Over 50’s) which is due to be played on 24th February

The last time I saw him was at the qualifying day for that competition on 9th December, which I think was probably the last time he played. It is said in many sports that you are only as good as your last game, so that being the case his last ever games are a great way to be remembered

By Stephen Kershaw

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