By GREG WHITE
BILL Ellis fondly remembers the first time he spied a billiard table.
"1942 at the Parramatta Police Boy's Club," he recalls without prompting.
"I was 12 years old and in the club learning to box."
During a break, Bill spotted an object on legs, covered by a cloth sheet.
"When I started to lift the cover the manager caught me and told me to leave it alone.
"But I'd already touched the felt on the table and was intrigued by how beautiful it was."
In time the manager relented, allowing Bill to remove the covers, sparking a love affair with billiards and snooker that's never waned.
"It's true the sport is in decline but it shouldn't be that way," Ellis said.
"That's why I'm trying to bring players back and encourage new people to take it up."
Ellis has joined fellow enthusiast Mark Nuske to hold coaching classes at Sawtell R.S.L. Club every Thursday from 12.30.
Both agree a lack of publicity and the failure of champion players to travel the country circuit has seen interest slip.
"We used to have Eddie Charlton visiting clubs and you couldn't find room to fit all the spectators in," Nuske said.
"As it doesn't happen anymore we have to build the interest ourselves."
For those who come along for coaching, they'll find two men who know the game backwards, and in Ellis, the local legend after whom the area's leading tournament is named.
"Just don't write it up as a 'memorial' event," Ellis says with a twinkle in the eye.
"There may be a few miles on the clock but plenty of life in the old boy yet."
Ellis has won every championship in the district and amazed onlookers by setting a club record with a snooker break of 81 in 1979.
"My best break is 96," he pipes up.
"I seem to freeze when I get near a century but it hasn't stopped me from trying."
Nuske's had better fortune in that department.
"Pulled off a 121 break, once upon a time," he said.
"The good thing is when you reach that mark, it's encouragement to get past it.
"In competition you're not just tackling an opponent, you're also pitted against yourself."
Bill produces a treasure for examination.
Written on the cover is 'Bill's Scrapbook', a collection of playing tips and diagrams he's been assembling for 36 years.
"Iv'e started organising to have it printed," he revealed.
"There's also a plan to have a DVD made so we can use it for coaching."
Nuske has another reason why the table game deserves revival.
"When players of Bill's vintage started out they were very young," he said.
"Myself, I was well into my twenties when I started to play.
"The old timers have such a touch, they seem to have a computer inside their heads as they plot their strategies.
"That kind of heritage needs to be preserved."
His more senior offsider is quick to concur.
"Playing from any age is fine but getting them young is better.
"You'll love it all your life.
"It still fascinates me as much as it did the day I touched the table in 1942."