You are currently viewing On cue for world champs
Clare Shanaher is excited to be captaining New Zealand’s first eightball team in over 25 years. Photos SUPPLIED/Garry Brandon

On cue for world champs

“Pool is about maths and science. It’s not about power and strength. I’m very tactical – I’ve got a good strategic game.”

Clare Shanaher lights up when she talks about pool. Or any cue-based sport really – snooker, billiards, eightball, nineball, tenball; she loves them all. 

The Te Puru woman, currently the country’s fifth-ranked woman in the sport, has been named captain of the women’s team for New Zealand’s first foray to the Eightball World Championships in over 25 years. She and five other women from across NZ will be winging their way to Blackpool, England, on June 18-27 to represent the country, along with a men’s team of nine players. 

“This has been my dream, to represent New Zealand,” Clare said. 

“[And] this was an absolute wow moment for New Zealand pool. It’s about getting New Zealand on the pool map so that then we can continue to go to them in the future.”

Clare wasn’t always into pool. However, by her own account she has always been competitive – formerly competing at darts, ten-pin bowling and Irish dancing. And when she did pick up a cue 18 years ago, she quickly found she was a natural. 

“I was in my 40s when I started playing pool, which is old to start a sport, really,” she said. 

“I joined the club in Nelson. And then a month later, I was playing in the Nelson rep team. I had really found the thing that I loved, and luckily had a lot of natural ability at it.”

Ad for Coromandel App and the Valley Profile

For Clare, the sport is more than just a hobby. 

“A lot of people have said to me, ‘you play like a man’. I do not take it as an insult, it’s me playing aggressive, getting out there and potting and not blocking pockets and stuff like that. But when I need to, I’ll block those pockets and play the tactical game.”

Ninety per cent of the game is mental, she said.

“When I go, I focus on it. I don’t drink alcohol, I’m there to play.”

Preparation for the championships has been intense. Clare travels to Auckland every week to play in Glen Eden. In between, she’s lining up shots at the Thames Workingman’s Club. In order to practise with the international rules, she’s also had to teach her club mates the official ruleset, and hunt down people in Auckland with international-sized tables. 

“Different tables, different balls, different rules,” she said. 

“The white ball is smaller… It moves differently when it contacts the ball. As I said, it’s maths and science. It’s harder to get the ball to go forward, but way easier to screw it back. 

“It is a very strategic rule set, but it’s very positive and aggressive. I absolutely love it. It’s my favourite rules by far.” 

It’s perhaps surprising then, to learn that Clare won’t be focused on winning in Blackpool. 

“If I play well and I lose, that’s actually okay. There’s a saying that I love: ‘losing is learning and winning is teaching.’ And that’s why when I lose in a tournament, I generally like to stay and watch the people. Because they’re better than me.”

What she truly loves about the game, Clare said, is the social aspect. She can play with mates, with strangers, with family. 

“I have played with [my son Tim] in a couple of South Island’s open tournaments,” she said. 

“For a mother to have her 27-year-old son ask you to be his partner is something else. That’s a really great feeling.”

These are just some of the many awards and trophies Clare has won in her 18 years at the table. Photos SUPPLIED/Garry Brandon

Bringing the game to the next generation is another thing Clare is passionate about. 

“I was a big part of getting the national juniors going again,” she said. 

 “So when I come back, I want to get into what I did in Nelson – I want to start coaching kids. The ideal age to start teaching people is like 11 or 12. They’re capable, but they’re not knowledgeable. So I want to get involved.”

First though, she needs to make it to Blackpool. The players are self-funding their trip, which includes a mandatory 10-day stay at the hotel where the competition is being held. 

“Just the accommodation alone for us is $24,000. I’m doing raffles, and people in Christchurch have been running pool tournaments for funding… We’ve even got beautiful shirts [for sale],” she said. 

“I’ll put it this way, I’ve got my car on the market to help fund my trip. That’s how much this means to me to go.”

And in the end, Clare said, she’s just happy to have the opportunity to do something she loves. 

“We are creating history for New Zealand pool, and to be selected – not only as a player, but to captain the team – I just feel really honoured.”

DETAILS: See for more.