Lauri Sheen served as the Australian Rules and Umpires director from 2002 to 2012.
Sadly Lauri Sheen passed away peacefully on the 17th of April 2023.
Life Member of the Australian Eight Ball Federation (AEBF).
Playing Rules by Lauri Sheen
We are, in aspects of life governed by rules. Failure to obey said rules incurred either penalties and/or disqualification.
Cue sports are no different. In the area of “Pool”, rules were a minefield, there being in excess of 72 types of pool games currently in existence.
In Australia, with the advent of the smaller pool table (7’x3’6”), it was even worse. Each and every venue be it either, hotel, club or home had their own “set of rules”.
To the then average pool player, lack of knowledge of venues playing rules, could and did, lead to a great many problems.
Enter the Australian Eight Ball Federation (AEBF), formed in 1983. On paper only, at that stage, a set of playing rules were agreed to, for the first National Championships to be held in 1984 in Adelaide.
Almost miraculous, as it took those who attended that inaugural 1983 meeting in Adelaide, only 3 days to agree to a new set of rule changes. South Australia, by 1984 already was training people to become umpires. It took, usually as the next host state to also do the same thing.
Remember, to become an umpire, one also had to learn the “playing rules” (World Rules).
It has never ceased to amaze me that players can play a sport – especially competitively – and not know and understand the “playing rules”. Unfortunately, this often appeared the ‘norm’. I have played various sports throughout my life and always made sure that I knew the rules and what’s more, understood them.
At AEBF level and for all the state/territory affiliates, training umpires is a vital component of our sport.
More importantly, is training players in the rules and their interpretations – they are, after all, where our umpires usually come from. Over my many years involved in 8ball pool, I have found that by “teaching the rules and understanding of them” is the best way to educate and improve standards in our sport.
Initiative taken in Victoria, after 2 years of competing at Australian Championships, by having a requirement that any player who made our state team, had to pass an umpire examination, before they could travel and compete at Nationals, brought about a incentive to players to learn the rules.
This was ‘picked up’ at local levels and many tutorials and testing is carried out on a regular basis, not just when about to ‘host’ a national title. Knowledge is power (I don’t know who coined that phrase – but I wholeheartedly support it).
Cue skills being equal – the player who knows the rules and penalties and who can ‘outthink’ their opponent, will usually be the victor. Like cue skills, some people have inborn talent, but they together with those who do not, all have to work at their skills and improve on them. Knowledge, can give you that extra edge – but it all takes some work, As in everything in life, you get back what you put in.
Though the formation of the World Eightball Pool Federation (WEPF) in 1992 and subsequent first World Championships in 1993, we had a new set of playing rules, this didn’t really affect players in Australia at that time, except those who were competing at World’s.
However, this was about to change, at the AEBF annual general meeting in 1993, it was decided by the Committee and Delegates, that the 1994 National Championships would be held under the WEPF playing rules.
This caused consternation in many states/territories here in Australia, now all players had to learn the new rules. Most did not want a new set of rules. What they failed – then – to understand that these rules were basically what was the AEBF playing rules, with a few very minor changes.
In 1992 in Perth at the Tri –national championships, prior to the Australian Championships, Australia, New Zealand and England founded the WEPF.
Two main aims of this new world body were to consolidate the playing rules of our sport and to conduct World Championships annually. The playing rules, being Australia’s main objective, without that, the other couldn’t be successful long term. It did however have the effect that Australia, together with New Zealand, were to compile the rules for the inaugural World Titles.
Our friends ‘across the ditch’, when it came to the crunch, were not overly forthcoming. The rules under which we compete today, were written by the then AEBF Secretary – Paul McLean of Western Australia and in conjunction with elected committee of the WEPF, were accepted to be “the rules”.
Thankfully, we are the beneficiaries of Paul’s expertise, a clearly well laid out set of rules – for the first time in the history of our sport in Australia.
Some, minor adjustments were made after the first World Championships. Then a period of 3 years (later altered to 5 years) was put on the rules. It had been decided that if they were changed too often, nobody would bother with them.
Some wise minds of the time, said “in 5 years, everyone will be playing these rules” – not at all realistic, an appropriate figure of 10-15 years, later proved to be far more accurate.
As stated earlier (under playing rules), by 1994 most states/territories had made and in some cases achieved a list of competent umpires, but it was all rather ‘hotch potch’, with each doing their ‘own thing’.
The AEBF via their Development Plan formed a subcommittee in 1995 of Rules & Umpiring. Each state and territory was invited to send a ‘State/Territory Director’ to be the base of this new committee.
All complied. Most of the original members are no longer part of this committee, Lauri Sheen then Director in Victoria has been the only constant member.
After a few hiccups, with the choice of Australian Director – Andrew Saltmarsh – Tasmania, was the man under which the committee grew. Lauri Sheen succeeded when Andrew stood down to take on the task of AEBF Secretary – a huge responsibility.
The committee over the years, amended some of the original basis for accreditation. Much discussion/action has taken place in the interpretations of the playing rules.
Most of the changes to WEPF rules, over the years, have come about via the AEBF Rules & Umpire Committee recommendations.
Changes and definitions’ all took place on the accreditation of umpires. Providing each state/territory follows the instructions of the committee, all methods in the training of umpires, will produce the best there can be. Unfortunately, finding the right people to be their State/Territory Director can be a challenge in itself.
Such a person must have a love of the sport, has put in the time and effort to be proficient in their knowledge and completely unbiased in their conducting of examinations and grading – it’s an ongoing task.
That said (there is always room for improvement), we have been extremely disappointed in recent years of the standard or lack thereof, of Umpiring.
Reports coming back from those attending/competing at World Championships – if true – and I have no reason to doubt the reports, show an almost incompetent umpiring standard being applied at the most prestigious event for our sport in the world.
Perhaps, it takes the Australian’s to once again, show that we know the rules, their interpretation and what it takes to be an efficient and competent Umpire.
From reports, I think our local pennant night players/umpires would – in most cases – be up to a better standard. Do not rest however of your laurels, much more needs to be done and maintained.
Umpiring – correctly – is vital in any sport, keeps an even playing field. It is not a ‘task’ or a ‘chore’.
Where can an individual, participate, at the highest level, see the very best compete and learn by observation, if not as a Umpire.
IT’S A PRIVILEGE!
Playing Rules by Lauri Sheen
Playing Rules by Lauri Sheen