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Wednesday, 22 January, 2003, 14:29 GMT
Tributes to Bill Werbeniuk
Bill Werbeniuk in action
Canadian snooker cult hero Bill Werbeniuk dies aged 56.

E-mail your tributes to one of the game's best-loved characters.


Bill Werbeniuk was often described as a 'larger than life' character, as famous for his legendary drinking as his performances on the snooker table.

The 20-stone heavyweight claimed he drank six to eight pints before he started a match and then one for every frame during play.

However, the Canadian was a top ranking player in his day and reached a career high of world number eight in 1983.

Send your memories and tributes to Bill Werbeniuk.


This forum is now closed. See below for a selection of your e-mails.


A big man, a big personality, an even bigger loss. R.I.P Bill.
Jonathan Fletcher, Burton On Trent, England

A great, great entertainer, always a joy to watch. One of the great characters who will go down in snooker history. Rest in peace, my friend.
Nigel Rowe, England (Salisbury)

Snooker needs characters like Big Bill in the game

Jonathan Fletcher, England

I have many happy memories of watching Bill playing (and drinking!) on British TV in the snooker heyday of the 1980s. A great character, and very sorry to hear of his death. My condolences to all his friends and family. He was a good 'un!
Jeremy Inglis, Wales, United Kingdom

We will miss you Big Bill. You were the life soul and soul of snooker and you could drink a fair few pints.
Sally and Kirsty, Scotland

He was a good lad! One of the characters that has made snooker as famous as it is today, and one of the reasons why I have taken a big interest in the sport.
Matt, England

Snooker needs characters like Big Bill in the game, unfortunately we only have a couple nowadays, the likes of Ronnie and Jimmy to lighten up the snooker scene.

I'm sure he will be remembered for peering around the curtain at the World Championships in 1983 when his fellow countryman Cliff Thorburn made that memorable 147 break with a willing smile on his face, as well as his play on the table. He will be greatly missed.
Jonathan Fletcher, Burton On Trent, England

In the days when snooker was full of entertainers, Bill still stood out as a great player, and a very likeable man. I hope you are reading this page Bill - you should be proud of the affection that so many people hold for you.
Phil Collinge, England

Sadly missed. Bill was a true character. Snooker is boring now, like darts. In Big Bill's day, it was entertaining.
Tony Cavanagh, England

An entertaining player and sadly missed even by those who do not like snooker, but like human beings.
Alex Rankin, Scotland

It is sad to lose one of snooker's greats

Sam

Bill and Cliff Thorburn put Canada on the snooker map. Not bad eh? From a Brit living in the Yukon, I'm proud of who Bill was and the contribution he made.
Chris Wright, Canada

To Bill's family, be proud of a great chap who could play snooker, like all the greats of sport who are true geniuses and have too much outside pressure - like the great Alex (hurricane) Higgins, Georgie Best, Brucie Grobellar - true talent, and most of all, they're "entertainers".

Most sport is clinical and boring now, bring back the real characters... God Bless Bill, say hello to my mum and dad for me when you get in...
Peter Walsh, Australia

I remember in the '80s Bill stretching to pot a long blue into the corner. He played the most astonishing slow screw shot. Jack Karnehm, commentating, said it was the finest screw shot he had ever seen. Lovely touch...lovely poetry...sad loss.
Matthew Oakley, Korea

The bloke reminded me of a darts player, so full of life and fun, and the amount he drunk between frames not only made him a great character, but a good laugh too. RIP mate.
Dylan, England

What is there to say, apart from thanks for the memories, and "cheers" - you were one of the best.
Richard, Wales

It is sad to lose one of snooker's greats. Twenty five years ago, the exciting players (Werbeniuk, Higgins, White, Stevens, Johnson...) outnumbered the boring ones (Davis, Thorburn, Griffiths, only three of them). Today, they are all boring, and look like billboards.
Sam

Though regarded by some as both a comical and tragic figure, the fact that we still remember Big Bill long after he ceased to grace our screens says much about the true character of the man.
Hebe, Japan

He was a gentleman on and off the table

Andrew Cherry, England

I remember watching Bill playing Dennis Taylor at the Crucible years ago and he had a chance of beating the highest break in one frame. He had scored 70-odd and to reach his next shot he had to stretch right across the table.

Unfortnaltey for Bill he passed wind when he was stretched across the table. The audience, the referee and Dennis Taylor are red in the face and biting their lips trying not to laugh because they don't wan to put Bill off.

He waited for a second then stood back up off his shot he looked at Dennis and then turned to the audience and said in a loud voice "COME ON WHO DID THAT" The crucible erupted with laughter.

That's my everlasting memory of Bill, he was a gentleman on and off the table and a man who injected character and life into snooker. God bless you Bill.
Andrew Cherry, England

What a sad day for snooker. On his day a wonderful player and courteous too. I'll never forget when he watched from around the screen as his friend Cliff Thorburn amassed one of the first 147 televised breaks.

A big man with a big heart. He'll be sadly missed by the many who still remember him fondly.
Mike, England

Sorry to hear about Bill's untimely death. Tons of memories from the '70s, we always had good times. He was one of the best players Canada has ever seen. We had lots of laughs....it was always fun to hang around with Bill. My sympathy to his family and friends. Your friend,
Carey, Canada

Bill was certainly the life and soul of any party

Richard, England

In Bill's time snooker was fun; slowly, the old-timers are bowing out leaving us with "potting robots" who play percentage shots and play a boring game with their minds on ranking points not the crowd's entertainment.
Jack, UK

Bill was a real character. Dennis Taylor regularly tells snooker viewers of the time when Bill had to stretch his leg across the table to take a shot which caused him to break wind loudly, with the audience in hysterics he looked over at Dennis and aid 'was that you Dennis'.

I think the current snooker players should be forced to drink a pint per frame, that would liven things up and create a few more characters within the game.
Stuart Chambers, England

I had the pleasure of sharing a house with Bill for two years in the late eighties and I always look back on that time with a smile. Bill was certainly the life and soul of any party and I remember spending many times with Bill talking and laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.

Sadly I lost touch with Bill when he moved back to Canada but I will always remember him sitting there with a drink a packet of smokes and a great big grin on his face. Thanks for the memories Bill.
Richard, England

Bill was one of snooker's all time greats, full of character and a fantastic entertainer. A true legend of the game.
Neil, UK

RIP Big Bill. A gentleman, a competitor, an entertainer, a wizard on the green baize, and above all, what an athlete. No more likeable character has ever touched cloth on these shores and he will be sadly missed.
Big Bill was an inspiration to all us pub pool players

Paul, Chris & Trevor, UK

A true sportsman and a snappy dresser, he will live long in the memory. I'll raise a pint of Smooth to you Bill. My one regret is that I'm never going to meet him. Never going to meet him...
George Riley, Roundhay, Leeds, England.

A great man in great days. Always remembered.
Jillian Kearney, UK

RIP Big Bill - you truly were a legend and a gent, and best of all, an avid Ipswich Town fan! Several of the legendary early '80s Town side (Mariner, Brazil, Gates etc) used to watch him at The Corn Exchange, and he in turn would go to see them at Portman Road, whenever in town.

They presented him with an Ipswich club tie which he could regularly be seen wearing on T.V - including at The Crucible!
Matt Thorpe, England

Big Bill was an inspiration to all us pub pool players, so much so we invented a cocktail in his honour - The Werbeniuk Spacebubble. He will be sorely missed by us all.
Paul, Chris & Trevor, UK

I am far from being a snooker fan, but I was always there to watch when Bill was playing. Such a wonderful big man with a big smile.
Anthony Fuller, United Kingdom

It's a shame snooker players don't drink during matches anymore. Bill was a legend, drinker, smoker, classy snooker player, a naturally likeable man and I would love to have met him.
Reg Ollis, England

My friends and I grew up watching Bill Werbeniuk and wishing we could play like him - hitting miracle shots and smiling as if it was second nature when they came off.

A tremendous player with a certain elegance and delicate touch

Stephen, UK

He was our favourite and I can honestly say that, in my opinion, there has not been a player to match his demeanour and attitude since. Snooker in particular, and world sport in general, will be the sadder for his passing. The powers that be should be ashamed for their backward attitude to his (common) health problems.

Walk through the valley with your head held high Bill - you were a credit.
Rob White, UK

Not only a great personality but also a tremendous player with a certain elegance around the table and a very delicate touch.
Stephen, UK

Went to watch Bill versus Alex Higgins in the Mercantile Credit Classic in Warrington in about 1983. We went in cheering for Alex and came out cheering for Bill!

The guy drank two pints every frame and there was a hold up after every frame as he waddled off to the toilet. Higgins was world champion in 1982 and was still a great player but Bill beat him 5-4 and brought the house down. Great memories of a great entertainer.
David, England

Bill was a great player but he never let the fact that he was playing snooker in a high pressure environment in front of millions on TV get in the way of a damn good drink....what a hero!
Gareth, Wales

Bill Werbeniuk brought enjoyment to many in a sporting time that will never be repeated. Rest in peace Bill, and thanks for all the fun.
Paul Dowmna, England

He could laugh, he could drink and he was a great sportsman. He was a Canadian.
Walt Balenovich, Canada

The sport has lost one of its true characters

Dave, England

Cheerio Bill, thanks for being one of the players who kept humour and individuality in the game of snooker.
Ian Kenny, Boston USA

I grew up in the golden age of snooker, and Werbeniuk was one of a group of great characters that made the game as great as it was. Nice one Bill.
Rob, UK

One of my greatest snooker memories to have seen Bill play in the local club in Winnipeg. He was gracious, affable and engaging. He was in all ways larger than life and he will be missed.
Glen D., Canada

See you, big guy. You were truly an inspiration to us all. A true professional if ever there was one, and such a nice guy with it. The sport has lost one of its true characters. Rest in Peace, Bill.
Dave, England

Bill Werbeniuk will always be remembered as one of the great characters of the game. He brought pleasure to many people with his snooker. Thank you, Bill.
Royston, England

Bill seemed to be so full of fun, he came over as such a warm figure

Howard, UK

A close personal friend who will be sorely missed. "Larger than life" just about says it all.
Miley T., Sheffield, England

From those of us who like nothing better than a few pints and a frame or two or snooker/pool you are officially elevated to a hero! :-) Farewell Big Bill!
Grant Ritchie, Scotland

Gone, but never forgotten - cheers big fella.
Gerry, UK

After having to play the game of snooker taking, as Bill said, a playing-enabling drug, not a playing-enhancing drug, Bill was then "banned" from professional snooker as the rule changed, as the drug he was prescribed was banned.

Then he was apparently sent a letter by the snooker "authorities" saying "don't bother to turn up"...I'm certainly glad that previously you did, Bill. And you will be missed, sadly, permanently now, as you have been missed from professional snooker for more than a decade. Thoughts are with your family and friends. Sincerely,
Mike Rowley, England

How sad. Bill seemed to be so full of fun, he came over as such a warm figure. My lasting memory of him will be seeing him peeping around the central partition at the World Championships to watch his fellow Canadian score his 147 break - great television.
Howard, UK

The picture of him hugging Cliff after his 147 was an absolute picture

Gemma, UK

What a sad day. Snooker, now more than ever, needs characters like big Bill, one of the true greats. RIP Bill.
Michael McDonald, Northern Ireland

Bill always seemed like a man who enjoyed life and who was always courteous. I think that in 1983, the year of the Thorburn 147, he was playing David Taylor on the next to the Thorburn/Griffiths marathon.

Apparantly he had to stretch across the table for one particular shot. However, he got stuck and I always remember seeing David Taylor and John Smyth standing either side of him trying to help him off the table.

He seemed to be a gentle giant. The picture of him hugging Cliff after his 147 was an absolute picture - he looked like he was going to squash Cliff.

We certainly need more characters in the game - they all seem to be too robotic today. God Bless Bill, at least you can play some frames up there with Cliff Wilson and Fred and Joe Davis.
Gemma Roulston, UK

Bill became my hero the day he got the Inland Revenue to allow 24 pints a day as tax deductible. Sadly, the concession was later rescinded.
Ted, UK/USA

Sad day; any man who can claim to "down 24 pints of extra strong lager and eight double vodkas and I'm still not drunk." after a game of snooker is a legend in my book.
M Rimmer, England

Anyone who saw him play will always remember him

Nick, England

I remember Bill when he came to Montreal, Quebec. He used to play money matches against the likes of Bob Paquette and the late Eddie Agah, who passed away two years' ago. He was a great guy and will be sadly missed.
Leonard Ponzie, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

A special personality. Snooker is the poorer for this sad loss.
Philip Hilton, UK

One of the truly great characters in snooker, God bless the big man. Hail, hail.
John Rodgers, Scotland

It was sad to hear about Bill Werbeniuk. He was one of THE characters of snooker back in the '80s. Not only that, but an excellent player with a great touch around the table. I think it was a shame the way he drifted out of the professional game, but anyone who saw him play will always remember him. RIP Big Bill.
Nick, England

One of the first snooker players who got me watching snooker was Big Bill. He always seemed to relish the whole occasion. RIP Bill Werbeniuk.
Sam S, UK

I remember Big Bill being so very generous in his congratulations to Cliff 'The Grinder' Thorburn after his 147 break. A true giant of a man.
Alex Carr, England

We need more characters like Bill

Charlie, UK

Bill is a character that will stay in our hearts and memories for years to come. A very big loss not only to the world of snooker but to society as a whole. My sympathy lies with the friends and family of Bill Werbeniuk.
Steve Sidhu, United Kingdom

Sad to hear of the passing of a great snooker player and a genuine snooker character. I'll remember him as the only guy who would look for a five or six ball cannon and take it on. He'll be sadly missed. My thoughts are with his family and friends.
Chris, Scotland

I just liked the bloke.
Ian Marlow, UK

Bill will be sorely missed. What a quality character. Probably not the best role model I had when I was growing up, but I love playing pool with a couple of pints. Not too many. We need more characters like Bill.
Charlie, UK

I saw Bill play years ago when they held the qualifiers for the World Championships in Romily, Cheshire. I went with a schoolmate of mine, Geoff. Geoff become intrigued with the way that a good snooker shot would normally receive a few initial handclaps followed by the rest of the spectators joining in after a couple of seconds.

After a few frames, he decided that he must be the one who starts the clapping. Bill hit a good shot, not a great one, but a good one. Geoff, quick as a flash, burst into (seemingly) spontaneous, enthusiastic applause. He was the only one.

The world of snooker and its followers will deeply mourn the sad passing of this great snooker player

Russell Leader, Stanmore

For a few long, long seconds, the only sound in the venue was emanating from Geoff's increasingly sweaty palms. Geoff stopped clapping. Bill looked up from his cue, looked Geoff in the eye and said "thank you" with a big grin on his face. The audience fell about laughing. Geoff, never, ever, clapped first again.

I'll remember Bill as a fantastic character who made the most monster, outrageous pots with a great big smile on his face...
David Birch, England

Being an avid snooker fan from the '70s to date, the world of snooker and its followers will deeply mourn the sad passing of this great snooker player and character from the game.
Russell Leader, Stanmore

Bill Werbeniuk was one of the stand-out characters of snooker's golden age. He represented the game when it was fun and social, when you could have a drink and a fag in between visits to the table, the way a game like snooker should be played.

He wouldn't have fitted in nowadays, but that is more of a slight on the way that snooker has become so formal and entertainment-free, and he probably wouldn't have wanted to anyway.
Delme, UK

Sadly missed...I'm not old enough to have seen you play live, but I have seen tapes, and how fun to watch they were; cheers...this drink's for you Bill. Have a game with the big man up there, show him some true Canadian fun, and a true Canadian man in all meanings of the world.
Wayne Binder, Canada

The footage of him stopping play to watch Cliff Thorburn's 147 from the next table is a classic

Chris S, London

The most underrated player of his generation. A true giant of snooker, when snooker was a sport played by real men. May you rest in peace. You are now part of the long list of "absent friends" toasted every time we have a drink.
Parminder Plahe, Luxembourg

I think the phrase should be "lager than life" as I seem to remember Bill would have a good few pints during a game. Bill was always an entertaining player but probably overshadowed by fellow countryman Kirk Stevens during the 1980s.
Richard Philips, UK

My granny always called him Bill Weetabix, and he certainly played like he'd had his! The footage of him stopping play to watch Cliff Thorburn's 147 from the next table is a classic.

He may not have ever got a televised 147, but he could drink Cliff Thorburn under the table!
Chris S, London, England

One of the greatest Ukrainians that ever lived...
Slavko Mykosowski, England

Big Bill was one of the true genuine 'Mr nice guys' of a sadly less-remembered golden era. Money was not the be all and end all, it was the sport of the true gentleman.

We will miss you but will always remember you. God bless Big Bill Werbeniuk
The Baby Monkey, United Kingdom

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22 Jan 03 | Snooker
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