aussie snooker champion dies

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    By Stuart Watt, ABC Sport Online

    Australian snooker legend Eddie Charlton has died at the age of 75.

    He passed away earlier today in Palmerston North Hospital in New Zealand. Charlton travelled to New Zealand on Friday to fulfil some engagements but fell ill on Sunday and was admitted to hospital.

    Charlton was one of snooker's highest-profile players, winning the prestigious Pot Black title in Britain three times in the 1970s.

    Born in the New South Wales Hunter Valley, Charlton began his working life as a miner but became Australia's greatest snooker player.

    World Pool Association president Ian Anderson, a friend and professional colleague of Charlton's, said Charlton died due to complications after an operation. He had been ill for some time.

    Mr Anderson said Charlton transcended the game.

    "I'm sure if you just stopped someone on the street and asked them who was the world champion snooker player, nine out of 10 would still say Eddie Charlton," Mr Anderson said.

    "It was one of those names that everybody put to snooker. His story's pretty well known throughout the world."

    Charlton dominated snooker in Australia, winning the Australian professional championship almost every year for two decades up until the early 1980s.

    But he was also acknowledged as one of the best snooker players of his generation on the world stage.

    He won the World Match Play Championship and the World Open Snooker Championship and a host of other international events including his three Pot Black titles.

    "The only tournament that eluded him was the actual world championship. He got to the final three or four times, lost in the last frame on one of those occasions but ... it was the only thing he couldn't win," Mr Anderson said.

    He said Charlton is probably the best snooker player never to win the world championship.

    "He was always considered to be one of the top three players [in the world] during his career ... he was never outside the top three and a number of times he was considered the number one player in the world," Mr Anderson said.

    "He's certainly up there with the greats."

    Like so many sports stars of his generation, Charlton was an all-round sportsman, also excelling at soccer, tennis and surf life saving.

    Charlton continued playing right until the end, travelling to appear in exhibitions taking on the locals at both pool and snooker.

    In may this year, Charlton appeared on the ABC TV program George Negus Tonight, and said he was still heavily involved in the game, which for him was a family affair.

    "I'm enjoying the game as much as I did when I started off," he said.

    "I just loved it from the word go. I started playing in my grandfather's billiard saloon at Swansea when I was only eight.

    "And ... then when he passed away, my father, who was a coalminer, he took over the billiard saloon, and when he passed away, my brother and I took it over. So it went through the family."

    Charlton is survived by five children.

    Dave R.
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