Denise Wilkinson, 28, from Hamilton this week won the Women's 8-Ball league at the Senior VNEA World Pool Championships in Las Vegas.

She also placed second in the Women's 9-Ball competition. She is in a team of four top New Zealand's female pool players at the championships.

The Valley National 8-ball League Association (VNEA) is the largest global amateur pool organisation, attracting about 3000 players.
Sixteen New Zealand players qualified for the tournament including senior female players Brooque Pologa, 23, Denise, Kimberley Cullen, 41, and Agnes Kimura, 43.

Aucklander Kimberley Cullen did well at last year's competition, placing runner-up in the Women's 8 Ball competition, third in the Women's 9 Ball and fourth in the Scotch Doubles.

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"There's a lot more expectation and pressure this year, particularly from myself. This time I know what to expect though, especially being prepared to play for long days which may stretch from 9 in the morning to 11 or 12 at night," says Kimberley.

Bernie Endres, general manager of New Zealand's premier cue sports club Massé, says while cue sports has always been strong in New Zealand, it is becoming more diverse.

The club has more than 13,000 members, of whom about half are women and many of those are juniors.

Massé provides members top-quality equipment and free coaching to help lift their individual game and develop the sport. New Zealand snooker icon and three-time World Masters Snooker Champion Dene O'Kane is Massé's chairman.

"Pool is a sport that flies under the radar but player numbers, both social and competitive would suggest it is increasing in profile," says Endres.

Former New Zealand Women's Snooker Champion Agnes Kimura who manages the Massé club in Hawera is competing in the international tournament for the first time and is clear about the potential women have in this sport.

"In the early years it was a male-dominated sport but now we have Kiwi women worldwide who are champions in different codes of cue sports," says Kimura who recently beat Australia to win the Oceania Women's Team Snooker Championships in March with Kiwi team mates Kimberley Cullen, Lucretia Goodwin, and Nita Clarkson.

Two-time former VNEA Under 21 Female World Junior 8-Ball Champion Brooque Pologa agrees that gender and age are no factor in the sport with mental focus making the greatest difference.

"I originally got into the sport because of my dad Joe, who is a very good player. Pool is such a great sport because my dad and I can play in tournaments and compete equally with each other," says Pologa.

The team has also benefited from sessions with High Performance Sport New Zealand sports psychologist Jason Yuill-Proctor who has worked with many of the country's elite sports people and teams.

Massé's aim is to do everything possible to grow world-class players and it is sponsoring all 16 Kiwis at the championships with uniforms, flights, accommodation, and tournament entry.

Endres is exceptionally proud of the team's efforts and says, "As a club that has produced numerous world champions over the years, we'll continue to provide our players with the equipment, environment and resources that they need to compete at the highest level."

Players compete in a variety of disciplines including singles, scotch doubles and teams competitions.