How snooker star Morgan discovered Jones

Jak Jones did not find a career in snooker. Snooker found him.

Specifically, a chance encounter with Darren Morgan, himself a semi-finalist at the Crucible 30-years ago, changed the trajectory of Jones’ life.

Picking up a cue for the first time on a family holiday in Corfu, Jones was spotted by Morgan who was on his honeymoon.

Morgan says he could tell from first sight that Jones was a natural.

“I went to the bar to order some drinks and there was an American pool table in there and I saw this little kid potting balls for fun,” he said.

"His mother saw and recognised me, and I said what a great player he is, she replied to me and said that he had never picked a cue up in his life until this week.”

When Morgan, from Newport, enquired further about Jones he discovered he was from just up the A4042 in Cwmbran, with Morgan being the person to suggest he give snooker a try.

Morgan, 56, who lost to Jimmy White in the 1994 World Championship semi-final, says he recommended Reds, a local club in Cwmbran – the place Jones now calls his snooker home – but it was in his own club in Cross Keys where Jones learned the game.

“Around about three months after Corfu I was in my club on a Saturday morning when the door opened, Jack, his mother and his father walked in,” Morgan recalls. “He played at my club, and I looked after him for about three or four years.

“He’s a lovely lad and will give 100% in any tournament or championship he plays in. It’s what you’ve got to do and he’s finally starting to see the rewards.”

Jones is the last remaining qualifier at the Crucible, booking his spot in the final 32 with a nail-biting 5-4 win over former world champion Neil Robertson.

Morgan says he has fancied Jones to shock the world by winning the biggest prize in snooker, since his qualification and dominant first round win over Zhang Anda, who he beat 10-4.

The Welshman faces Stuart Bingham in the semi-final having knocked out another former winner and world number one, Judd Trump, in the last eight.

“After the first round and watching the way Jack played, I said to my wife I’ve got a sneaky feeling that this could be destined for Jack," Morgan told BBC Radio Wales.

"He’s beaten Judd Trump and probably expected to face Ronnie O’Sullivan in the semi-final, but with Stuart Bingham beating Ronnie, it opens it right up. I just think it’s going to be Jack’s year, there’s no one there playing any better than him and that’s for sure.

“As long as he can hold himself together, I think he’ll be fine."

Morgan says that before the tournament Jones would have "bitten your hand off," just to make the quarter-final, but Morgan believes his protégé is reaping the rewards of hard work.

“He is a very cool customer, he’s very quiet and quite reserved. He’s got married in the last 12-14 months and he goes about his business right, he’s a work horse,” he added.

“The boy practices and practices, that’s never changed from when he was with me at my club to where he is now.

“You only get out what you put in, if you keep knocking that door one day that door will open."