First Māori to go to World Pool Masters

By James Perry

Matt Edwards has been invited to compete at the World Pool Masters in Gibraltar, one of the biggest pool events in the world.

Edwards (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Kahu ki Whaingaroa) will become the first Māori- and first New Zealander- to participate in this invite only event.

The 31 year old says it is a dream come true. 

"The current world champions are there...there's only twenty four players [from around] the world so it's the toughest event to get in.  It's just huge, it doesn't get any better than the World Pool Masters."

The competition has a 2019 prize pool of $100,000 USD ($140,000 NZD) with the winner taking home $25,000 USD ($36,000 NZD).

Matt Edwards began playing pool aged 12, he now gets paid to do it. Photo/file

Growing up in Kaiapoi, near Christchurch, Edwards began playing pool at the age of 12, and hasn't looked back.

He has won numerous national titles, most recently the NZ Open over the weekend, and spends about a third of the year travelling the world competing in international tournaments. 

Edwards returned from Japan last week where he placed 17th in the Japanese Open.  He is thrilled to be the first New Zealander to make an appearance at the World Pool Masters, particularly given he at first didn't believe the news. 

"When I first got the invite letter I looked at it and thought it was a spam mail, so I'm stoked, super proud to get out there and represent the Māori people and New Zealand."

Edwards represented NZ at the 2018 Pool World Cup in Shanghai in May.  However, this will be his biggest challenge.

"To a lot of people I'll be the underdog, definitely," he says, "But for me, I have to travel a long way and I take a lot of pride in what I do, so when I go there I go there to win.  I'll be out there giving it my very best and I expect myself to perform."

With 23 of the other best players in the world invited to Gibraltar, Edwards doesn't mind who he faces in the knockout style tournament. 

"I've played probably 10 of the top 20 players in the world, and, just quietly, I've beaten most of them.  I've played them all before, I've just got to be on my game."

Matt Edwards will be the 1st Māori to participate in the World Pool Masters next year. Photo/File

Such is his passion, and dedication to the sport that when he's not traveling the country or the world playing he's at work selling pool tables and equipment on Auckland's North Shore.

He flies to Doha, Qatar next week for the World Nine-ball Championships, before returning home to prepare for the World Pool Masters in March.