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Wilkins celebrates 50 years as league player
6:00am Saturday 14th September 2013 in Sport
THRASHING a ten-year-old Shane Castle in the Summer Bonanza in 2008 has been one of the highlights of Chris Wilkins’ snooker career.
The 65-year-old kicked off his 50th season in the Southampton & District Social Clubs League last Tuesday.
But for some wise words, it could all have ended when he was still a teenager.
While attending a Christmas party at Botley British Legion, Wilkins, pictured, was recruited by Arthur Gibson for the now closed Botley Institute.
He joined the Institute team the following season at the age of 16.
A couple of years later, he lost his form and threatened to quit.
“I played seven games and lost every one of them,” he recalled. “I said ‘that’s it. I’m not playing any more. I’ve had enough of this’.”
However, skipper Lionel Lewry persuaded him to play a pre-planned friendly against another Institute team.
Wilkins won and didn’t lose a game for the rest of the season.
“I never looked back after that,” he said.
And he had this advice for today’s young players who are a “lot better now” than in his day: “Keep going. Don’t give up. If you love the game, carry on. Don’t get disillusioned. It’s only a game, isn’t it?”
Although he missed a year while working in London, Wilkins stayed loyal to the Institute until he presided over its closure, due to lack of funds, in 2009.
Membership had dropped to 24 and the building was eventually sold last year.
“It just dwindled away,” explained Wilkins.
“People don’t bother; kids don’t bother. We just couldn’t get any members. Nobody was interested.”
As well as claiming aspiring professional Castle’s scalp, Wilkins proudly recalled an 85 break made “many years ago”, reaching the Town Championship quarter-finals in the 1970s (he lost to Geoff Knapp) and winning the league and individual title in the Botley & District Snooker League in 1969 - the year it folded.
“I just love the game,” he said. “I always have.
“It’s been a bit awkward lately because I had a hip replacement done four years ago and I found that a bit difficult because I couldn’t get down on the cue like I used to.
“So I had to adjust my game to compensate for it.”
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