From agony to ecstasy for pool champ

He is one of the most successful NZ Pool players ever but Matt Edwards has endured some of the darkest times of his life in recent years.

But after a remarkable first Oceania 10-ball Championship recently he is looking once again on the bright side of life and not yet ready to give up on his dreams.

The 21-time New Zealand champion had to come from behind to beat Sean Mark Malayan in the final, pulling off one of the most remarkable shots of his career.

Malayan, breaking in the final rack in the race to 11, left Edwards with a tough shot, having effectively snookered the Ngāti Kahu and Ngāpuhi gun.

“I just said to myself in my head, I just need to do one good shot. Just one good shot. That’s all I need. And then and it wasn’t on the way it would be traditionally because one of the balls is in the way so I had to put a bit of spin to get around a little bit. And yeah, as soon as I hit it, I was like, oh, it’s not bad. And then when I saw it come off that other rail, then I knew it was gonna go close and it went that just went in perfectly.”

Emotional moment

The win, his first Oceania title against some of the best international players, was an emotional moment for the 35-year-old after a turbulent four years involving legal challenges and the death of his child’s mother.

“A lot of people probably wrote me off but I just just keep sticking it in there. And I just bottled up all that emotion and, and I guess, sinking that last 10-ball all just came out. And you know, throwing the cue [at the end of the final] wasn’t frustration, it’s just the emotion coming out.”

Last year the Department of Internal Affairs charged Edwards and three others with the alleged theft of gaming machine grants following a three-year investigation into funding irregularities. Charges against him were dropped earlier this year, which he says proves his innocence.

“That was something that, you know, has held me down, I think, for a lot of years. And it did put, you know, a bad taste in my mouth and made me think ‘what am I doing?’

‘A tough time’

“I’m proud of my country, and I’ve always represented my country to the best that I could, And this is how I’m getting repaid? I spent my whole life dedicated to the sport, so it’s left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.”

In September last year, Edwards’s former partner, and mother of his son, Moruldee Kasamchaiyan, died as a result of a brain tumour.

“You wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemies. It’s just absolute hell. But yeah, it’s just shocking news for that to happen and hard for the little boy, as well. It’s especially hard for him. But it’s just been a tough time. But, at the end, you’ve just got to stay positive and be resilient and keep moving forward.

“It’s been definitely a hard time and difficult but I just keep telling myself at the end of the storm, there’s always a sunny day.”

The stress of the last three years also saw Edwards contemplate walking away from the sport he has played since he was 13, collecting more than 20 titles across multiple pool disciplines. Leading into the Oceania tournament, with a $30,000 (US) prize pool, he was only able to muster three days of practice, and having played a handful of tournaments during the year.

“It just created a lot of doubt for me having had a year off and not playing. And when I tried to practise, or when I did play some other events in the year and things like that, I never felt like I was myself as I was before when I was playing a lot.

Through to the other side

“It was very hard to battle those demons and then come back. So I guess that’s why there was so much emotion in that event as well for me to prove to myself and to everyone else that I can do it, and that I’m just gonna keep fighting and keep playing if that’s what I want to do.”

Edwards says now he has come through the other side of a tough period, he is looking to get back into playing internationally in the new year.

“We’ll see how we go because I want to give it one big nudge and then, when I do finish playing one day, at least I can say I left all on the table.”

Public Interest Journalism