There's something curious about people who die aged 27. They almost invariably become super-mythologised legends.
People who famously died at 27:
There's even a wikipedia page dedicated to the "27 Club", to which one of the fanboys here might like to go there and add Paul Hunter to that page.
I think it's because 27 is usually when people are "at their prime" with regards to looks and fashionability. They produce their peak works and then suddenly shuffle off the mortal coil with only their peak remaining in the minds of their fans.
I myself never really saw the Hunter hype. Mostly because, particularly with regards to the WSC, it usually was just hype. As if people wanted him to be a better player so much that at some point it started to become too embarrassing for me to cope with.
I always imagined him in that McManus or Kirk Stevens kind of skill level. Someone who was clearly better than the rest and who was quite capable of being a top player, but lacked that little something extra to become a regular and renown Winner.
Someone who you always expected to see in the event and weren't surprised to see in the QFs or SFs but also didn't really expect to see them in the final. Maguire or Hawkinsesque kind of thing.
But then those odd-ball and unusual 3 Masters wins. They sort of stand out like this weird unexplainable phenonium. A sort of Joe Johnsonesque anomaly that makes no logical sense but happens anyway. And is undeniable. Jeezus, not even John Higgins has three Masters titles. But, no, I wouldn't ever have rated him a better player than Higgins.
Looking at his Wiki page, he'd even gone off the boil completely in the whole year before he was even diagnosed with anything, his 2004/2005 season reads like a regular journeyman player.
Even during his peak, 2000-2004, the season 2001-2002 was just a cavalcade of Round 1 and Round 2s, with, again, just the Masters really standing out as an anomaly. One other final, the Scottish Open, but mostly just r1s and r2s.
He clearly meant a lot to a lot of people though. As I said, a lot of people had clearly invested heavily into the cult of the Hunter, so it was no surprise to me that, when he died, there was such a massive outpouring of despair. One of those moments where everyone had to be seen to be in mourning, an almost stately mourning, even if one wasn't even following him during events nor that fussed about him generally.
Again, I felt a sense of second hand embarrassment as mourning seemed to go on almost indefinitely, almost hysterically, with all these players being trotted out to express their sadness and pose for the cameras with forced expressions of woe and grief, when, in reality, I've no doubt some of them would just be thinking, obviously, "I dunno mate, I never really knew him, he was ok I guess, rubbish happens.".
A bit like when a kid died in our year at school (car accident), and they were in a different class and you never really spoke to them and can only just imagine their face because you sometimes saw them in the playground, but the whole year, the whole school even, has to have a series of mourning events and assemblys where everyone has to make like they are in a state of deep contemplation and mutual affection. "he was such a nice guy", "he had so much promise", "he was loved by so many", "there will now be a poetry reading by Janice McCafferty".
...But then why did Pink Ball include him in this event if he doesn't himself rate him as someone worthy of beating someone like Robertson? Robertson is clearly going to be a mid to low table entrant in this event as a whole, so if Pink has issues with Hunter beating him, why is Hunter even included in the event in the first place? Could quite easily have replaced him with no-end of other snooker WSC runner-ups and all-round good players who never won the WSC.
So the buck passes back to Pink: if you are so surprised, what was your initial reason for including Hunter, who only has one single WSC SF to his name and not even any QFs? When your criteria for entry seemed to be WSC achievements...