Rebecca Kenna interview: ‘I was never bothered about being the only girl – I just loved playing snooker’

Rebecca Kenna stands only four matches from playing on snooker’s most iconic stage in the sport’s most important tournament. And yet the unmistakable irony of her trailblazing career is that she was unable to compete at every venue of her local Crosshills & District Snooker League.

Kenna made national headlines in 2019 when it was revealed  two private members’ clubs had barred women and, although she has long since moved on, it still provides some rather revealing context whenever people question why more women have not broken through to compete against snooker’s best men. 

The World Women’s Snooker Tour has also still not resumed since the first Covid lockdown last March and, with three quarters of the world’s leading players based overseas, the 2020 Women’s World Championship was simply cancelled. 

Women’s snooker was classed as amateur rather than elite sport and so has been subject to more stringent Covid-19 restrictions. Opportunities remain severely restricted. But not this week. 

With 12-times world champion Reanne Evans, Kenna is one of two women to have been granted a place in qualifying for the main World Snooker Championships and she will face Brandon Sargeant on Tuesday night in the first qualifying round.

“People say women have the same opportunity as men but generally women just wouldn’t go into a club and pick up a cue and give it a go – mainly because there are no other women,” she says.

“The more women we get, the more it will even up the playing numbers and then we might see more women on tour or qualify for the World Championships. Just because one woman hasn’t done it so far doesn’t mean we can’t. It just means the participation levels have been nowhere near enough to compete.”

Kenna herself started out by playing with her dad, Mick Granger, first on pool tables and then snooker in the Keighley Liberal Club. “When I went to my dad’s on the weekend, we would be in the pub and then go for a few hours to the club,” she said. “I watched him and, once I was tall enough, had a go. I was maybe eight or nine when I was allowed on a big snooker table. I’d have to wait until everyone had finished and then I could hit a few balls.

“I didn’t care that some things were for girls and some things were for boys – I liked what I liked. I always had a fascination with knocking the balls into the pockets.

“I was never bothered about being the only girl and just loved playing. But because me and dad played in the club we were asked by a member of the team ‘can you come and play for us?'”

‘I am going there to win’

Kenna was 22 when she joined the local league and soon became one of the best players. She also played football and, following a shoulder injury and the loss of her father in late 2015, she began taking snooker more seriously. She then caused a minor sensation when she reached the semi-final of the 2016 World Women’s Championships.

Now 32, she has since twice repeated that feat and is ranked fourth in the world. As well as hoping to topple Evans at the summit, she is aiming for a place on the main professional tour with the likes of Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump. 

And there is certainly no need or desire to return to her local league in the town of Keighley, where she runs a snooker shop – Cue Sports Yorkshire – and is a WPBSA Level 2 coach.

“We did try to get the rules changed, they didn’t, so I left the league to concentrate on solo practice because by that time I had got my own shop and table,” she says.

“I want to forget about it to be honest because I won’t be going back. Everybody knows about it – unfortunately that sort of stuff still goes on.”

Kenna has had her table specially reclothed in preparation for her match against Sargeant to emulate the tournament conditions and, while the Covid lockdown means her shop cannot reopen until next Monday, there has been an unintended bonus in practice time.

“I have been knocking in more consistent breaks and my game is in the best shape it’s been in,” she says. “Obviously he [Sargeant] has more experience but I believe I have a chance to win the match – I am going there to win, not just to get the opportunity.”

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