Hawke's Bay snooker player Marcus Moat hopes his final pig hunting expedition before heading to his first world championship tournament proves to be a lucky omen.
"Pig hunting is my biggest hobby, even more than snooker. I got a 100 pound boar which fell into a gorge off the Taihape Road. That's why I missed the photo shoot on Saturday ... it took me a while to carry the pig out," Moat explained yesterday.
"You're right it might prove to be a lucky omen for me in China. Because it's my first world champs I'm not going over with any big expectations and I would be happy to win one match," Moat said.
The 17-year-old Hastings Boys' High School Year 13 student is one of three Hawke's Bay players in the New Zealand team which will compete at the world under-21 and under-18 championships in Qing Dao from Friday until July 13. His Clubs Hastings clubmate Sam Martin and Napier RSA's Michaela Spencer are the others in the team which will be managed by their Hawke's Bay-based coach Dave Judd.
Moat has been playing snooker for two years and has produced a 63 break in tournament play. Like 17-year-old apprentice electrician Martin, Moat will compete in both the under-21 and under-18 divisions at the champs.
"I'm hoping to qualify for post-section play in both age groups but as always I will just be taking things match by match," Martin said.
That approach worked for Martin when he reached the semifinals of the Oceania under-21 championships at the Havelock North Club in February. He's a player who doesn't lack confidence and has no fear.
In May, Martin, who has scored a 56 break in tournament play, won a Gisborne-hosted handicap singles tournament. He has also played snooker for two years.
Martin's hand-eye co-ordination has always been decent. He played first XI cricket during his days at Hastings Boys' High School and is ranked nationally on the junior darts scene.
An online packer for Countdown in Napier, Spencer, 20, will be competing at the world under-21 championships for the second time.
"I just missed qualifying in Jinan, China last year and I'll be trying my hardest to qualify this time," Spencer said.
She had a 36 clearance at the recent North Island championships in Wellington and like Martin and Moat is more than happy with how she has trained in the build-up to the worlds.
"Michaela learnt a lot from last year's worlds and I would like to see her qualify this time," Judd said.
Spencer will be one of her 20 players in her age group. Martin and Moat will be among 75 starters in the under-21 men's division and 60 starters in the under-18 boys age group.
A Taradale High School product, Spencer, has been playing snooker for three years. During her school days she was involved in target shooting and archery and she said these sports prepared her well for snooker.
"Both boys have been training every day in recent weeks. While I would like to see both of them qualify it will be their first worlds and they have to get used to the conditions at this level. It's a different kind of pressure and they will be up against some quality opponents," Judd said.
"Sam has the edge on Marcus physically and mentally so has a better chance of qualifying," he said.
This will be Judd's third year in charge of the Kiwi contingent at the worlds.
"It's great to see the progress our young New Zealand players make on the international stage," he added.
The other members of the Kiwi team which leaves New Zealand today will be Canterbury's Adam Lilley, Taranaki's Mario Hildred and Capital City's Blane Watson. Lilley was beaten 6-4 by Aussie No 1 Alex Pace in the final of the Oceania under-21 tournament. Hildred was the 2018 Oceania under-21 champion.