James, 9, from Paraparaumu, has only been playing snooker for 11 months but he's already beating people more than triple his age.

Last year Riley won the Capital City Billiards and Snooker Association Wellington C-grade plate final, announcing himself to the New Zealand snooker scene.

Losing his first round in the main draw, Riley went on to win the rest of his games, winning the plate final in the first tournament he had ever played.

Starting on a pool table when he was 5 years old, Riley's first challenge was proving to his local club, Club Vista, that he was good enough to be allowed on to the snooker table.

Advertisement

"My dad used to be one of the best pool players and he showed me how to play pool."

The rule at Club Vista was that you had to be 14 to be allowed on to the snooker tables.

"I wasn't allowed on the snooker table but my dad let me play.

"Some people told me off but secretly I started playing and I was good.

"Eventually the boss came up and saw me, it took some convincing but he said I was good and eventually I was allowed to play."

While significantly younger than most of his competition Riley doesn't mind playing adults and being in their company, developing an attitude that many more experienced athletes could learn from.

"I probably play better with adults.

"You're there to play.

"If my friends were here you just talk, you lose all your focus."

This attitude combined with natural talent, good coaching and around 26 hours of practice at Club Vista per week has led to a call up to represent New Zealand in the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) U18 World Amateur Championships in Jinan, China in July.

Blane Watson from Ōtaki, left, and Riley James from Paraparaumu will be representing New Zealand in China at the U18 World Amateur Championships in July. Photo: Rosalie Willis
Blane Watson from Ōtaki, left, and Riley James from Paraparaumu will be representing New Zealand in China at the U18 World Amateur Championships in July. Photo: Rosalie Willis

"The adults can play a lot longer but without a good coach, they haven't had someone that can teach them properly."

Chris Barnett, from Club Vista, has played a crucial part in Riley's development.

"It was obvious right from the start that Riley had a special talent, so we had to do something.

"We couldn't just push him to the side because of his age as that would just be stupid.

"While we aren't surprised that Riley has made it into the New Zealand team, we thought that next year might be the earliest.

"We thought his age would count against him even though we knew he was good enough."

Garry James, Riley's proud father made a video of Riley playing and put it on YouTube and it was this that convinced IBSF coaches along with Stan Bunn, one of New Zealand's leading snooker coaches of Riley's talent.

"They said that he was the most talented and exciting young player they had ever seen — not just ever seen in New Zealand but ever seen," Chris said.

"He's got a terrific future, he's probably at 20 per cent of his ability at the moment."

Riley along with Blane Watson from Ōtaki and Denin Bunn from Stratford make up the New Zealand U18 team coached by Stan Bunn.