Darts boss tells Aussies to aim high
BECOMING a professional darts player can change your life.
Just ask Australian stars Simon Whitlock and Kyle Anderson and England's Rob Cross, the former electrician who won the Professional Darts Corporation world championship at his first attempt in January, less than a year after turning professional.
Those three, along with world No.1 Michael van Gerwen, world No.2 Peter Wright, five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld, two-time world champion Gary Anderson and rising star Michael Smith have been entertaining big crowds in Auckland, Melbourne and Brisbane on the World Series of Darts' Oceanic tour over the past month.
PDC chief executive Matt Porter says there could not be a better time to chase your darts dream if you are an up-and-coming player from Down Under.
Porter said he had been delighted with the success of the series and believed one of the rising stars of darts Down Under, such as Corey Cadby, who made the Auckland Masters final in 2017, could soon cash in on the popularity of the game.
He did however add they had to be sure they were making the right move.
"There's a lot of potential," Porter said of the Australian and New Zealand darts players.
"Cadby could be a top-10, top-16 player relatively quickly I think. Some of the other guys could certainly be competitive on the tour.
"The key thing for them would be to get to a point where it's the right thing for them to do in their lives. To give up basically everything they have got down here and take the risk of relocating to the UK and Europe like Kyle Anderson has done, like Simon Whitlock has done, like Cody Harris, from New Zealand, has done.
"It's a big, big thing. You have to leave family behind, you've got to leave your job behind, you have got leave everything you know and love behind and it can be quite lonely.
"You rent a flat somewhere, you don't know anybody, you have to travel a lot, it's expensive, you might get a few bad results, confidence takes a knock. You can't under-estimate how mentally tough these guys have got to be to withstand that."
Porter acknowledged the work of those who had gone before him - he joined the PDC in 2004 and became CEO in 2008 - and said one of the things which had helped make the game as successful as it is now had been taking it to all corners of the world.
"We've been pleased we have been able to take it on to the next level, mainly through international growth," he said.
"The key thing for us is to identify the right territory to move into and then the right time to move into it.
"Everybody said we could have gone to Holland 10, 12 years ago. We could have come here 10 years ago but it's important you time it right and we have to make sure that the appetite for the product is there and the local market in terms of fans, broadcasters, sponsors and also the players, is mature enough.
"Some places we go the standard of local players needs a huge amount of work to be brought up to anything like competitive levels.
"Here in Australia and also in New Zealand the standard of local players is excellent, so they are very competitive games which obviously makes for an exciting competition and also because of the large ex-pat community down here and the amount of TV coverage we have got, there is a lot of familiarity with the product already."
Porter said the success of the World Series of Darts Down Under was plain to see and that's why the PDC would be back next year and for a few more years after.
"We have got a new five-year deal with Fox Sports who are a fantastic partner of ours," he said.
"Part of that deal is to provide for two events a year so we will certainly be doing that.
"We obviously did Sydney and Perth for four years each and rotated now with a second year in Melbourne and first year in Brisbane with great reactions in both cities.
"We have got to look at tweaking some formats and having a little look at what does and doesn't work but the event is here to stay, that's for sure."
Porter said the potential for success for Australian and New Zealand players was great and added it was now all about enhancing the product and taking it to the next level.
"The domestic product is strong, the Dartsplayers Australia (DPA) have done a great job in terms of building a competitive tour for players to play in across Australia," he said.
"Our partnership with them over the next few years will involve developing that further and taking it on to the next level to get players ready for international competition as and when their commitments and financial situation allows."
The PDC professionals have not had it all their own way over the past few weeks on the World Series.
Michael Smith was beaten by Kiwi Mark McGrath in Auckland and lost to Queenslander Raymond Smith at the Brisbane Masters, while Anderson lost to Perth's Damon Heta.
Whitlock was taken to a deciding leg by Ben Robb in Auckland, while John Hurring pushed world champ Cross all the way and had match darts in a 6-5 defeat in Auckland.
Cadby also beat Whitlock in the first round in Brisbane.
Porter and PDC officials were delighted by the standard of darts thrown by local players during the tour and said that was another reason why the World Series in Australasia would continue to be successful.
"It's been another good step forward for us in this part of the world," he said.
"We don't want to come down here and have our players winning 6-0 6-0, that's no good for anybody.
"It's basically about keeping developing that product, keep giving opportunities to players who are able to see what the likes of Whitlock, Anderson and Cadby have achieved and want to try to emulate that themselves."
Australia has not seen a PDC world champion yet - Whitlock was runner-up in 2010 to Phil Taylor - but Porter said there was a good chance someone could change that statistic in the future.
"I don't see why not," he said. "Corey Cadby could do it, Kyle Anderson will think he can do it and why not, he's shown he can win a major TV event in Auckland (Auckland Masters 2017).
"Simon Whitlock's won TV tournaments and been in many major finals.
"What that will do is inspire the next generation of players.
"So probably Australia's first world champion is in their 20s or younger at the moment. He's probably not a guy who's 55 years old and been playing for 30 years.
"There's nothing wrong with that guy but it's probably not the right time in his life for that move to be made.
"It will be a young player who can see what's there, see what the future opportunities are and see how much they really want to do it and grab that bull by the horns, because the money is sensational for them and they can go on and change their lives."