Category Archives: darts

DARTS – London, England

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Darts, especially the World Championship at Alexandra Palace (Ally Pally) has become one of the must see sports events on the planet. It certainly was on my bucket list and it certainly lived up to my expectations. First of all the darts on show were of such a high quality and tow of the three matches themselves went the full distance of 7 sets. The Legend that is 15 time World Champion, Phil “The Power” Taylor was beaten in a final set decider. Peter “Snakebite” Wright beat Dave Chisnall in another 7 setter. Chisnall averaged over 103 points per visit and LOST!!! The sheer quality of the darts was matched by the atmosphere of the crowd. For close to 4 hours they go non-stop. They come in fancy dress and they sing, chant, dance and most importantly they drink; but they bloody enjoy themselves to the fullest. They appreciate the darts too – that doesn’t get missed amongst the madness. What we did notice though was the amount of foreigners in the crowd. Lots of Germans, Spaniards, Poles and we even met a group of Greeks; all of whom had come specifically for the darts! I can see why. It is a sporting experience that should be everyone’s bucket list. You wont be disappointed.

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DARTS – August 16th – Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Darts has made an amazing resurgence over the past few years. Those smoke filled, beer fueled glory days of Rees, Bristow, Lowe and Wilson are long gone, replaced by “athletes” sipping water in front of jam packed, beer fueled crowds in large arenas. A night out at the darts is now a special occasion – a date night for the blokes to share their bromances. So, when a “world-class” darts event is advertised, you kind of get the impression that you are going to see a world-class darts event, with a bit of fun on the side. Judging by the 2,000+ crowd, they probably did too. What we actually got was essentially a glorified stag night, without the dwarf throwing and the strippers, and unfortunately only the slightest bit of top class darts!

The night was billed to start at 7pm. The room was packed to the rafters and beer was flowing incredibly voluminously. The schedule of events was guardedly kept secret for good reason.  The merchandise desk (yes, darts has supporter merchandise) had mementos for some of the world’s top players, as well as the two Aussies. The many TV screens were ablaze showing player profiles from said top players – Wade, Lewis, Barneveld, van Gerwin, Webster, Anderson – which kind of lead you to believe that they may well make an appearance during the evening – they didn’t! I did notice that Phil “The Power” Taylor’s profile was not shown which was a bit strange, seeing as he is the biggest name in darts – Why was that? Image rights gone crazy I suppose!!!!

When the MC finally decided to make an appearance at 730pm, you do notice he is vertically challenged. He is also dressed in a green suit, enhancing his leprechaun likeness. The suit is emblazoned with the sponsors STICKERS, and his whole act centres around him being a milk crate away from being able to see at a football match. When you have to break into a “Hi-Ho” every couple of minutes to keep the crowd interested, you know you are “short” on material……. For a full 30 minutes we endured bad jokes, a dwarf parade and constant reminders to get more beers in!!! Mind you, the majority did not need reminding…..

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When we finally got to some darts action, we were treated to…. wait for it …….. World # 34 Carol Forwood against World # 99 Sheryl Beasy, complete with walk-on music. When Carol won the first leg with a 37 darter……. you got the idea of the standard. When Sheryl started the match with a 30 and then a 36, she then switched to pegging on the 19 instead of the 20, we all knew we were in for a struggle.  Just because these ladies had shirts with their names and some sponsors on, it doesn’t make them dartists.  It was meant to be an exhibition of the lady’s game, over a best of 7 legs. When the initial buzz of the first match of the night wore off, the crowd were desperate for a 4-0 whitewash just to get it over with. It was unfortunately a sign of things to come. After waiting an hour for some darts action, and being treated to something you wouldn’t watch in your own pub, we were then informed that it was time for a break……. I could not believe what I was hearing….. A break… why???? why???? why???? (to get more beers in…..)

Next up was “The Asset”, Paul Nicholson. The Geordie Australian is more known for his off-oche antics instead of his darts record, although he has won a professional tournament and is currently ranked #19 in the world. He has an ongoing feud with Phil “The Power” Taylor. Nicholson has obviously embraced becoming an Australian, as Taylor has been vociferous in his comments that Nicholson “has a big mouth and won’t keep it shut!”

Nicholson would be pitted against that household name, World # 562, “Jumbo” Jamie Brown, who allegedly won a tournament in his local RSL (working man’s club for our UK readers) to get this chance. Brown was not overawed by any means and he quickly became a crowd favourite, and as roars of Jumbo, Jumbo erupted, he duly played to the fanfare. Unfortunately these got more and more regular and became more of a priority to Jumbo than the actual darts – although one improvised chant did tickle my fancy – “Jumbo, Jumbo man, I want to be, a Jumbo Man” to the tune of Macho Man drew all the crowd into singing along.

The occasion did catch up to him, when he got to play the former world champion, the man with two nicknames, Simon Whitlock (The Wizard of Oz & The Beard to be Feared). Both matches were scheduled to be best of 11 legs. Jumbo actually took 2 legs of Nicholson, but up against Whitlock he completely folded  and the match was called off after 4 legs with Brown losing one leg by a whopping 383 points. No-one has ever seen Whitlock and Brett Lee in the same room together……

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Nicholson speaks with a broad Geordie accent. He has adopted Melbourne as his home, and his walk on music is the classic Aussie pub rock anthem “Am I ever going to see your face again.” There is some crowd involvement with this particular song, and Nicholson complete with his trademark gangster shades, conducts the crowd into joining in. It sends the crowd into fervour, in their own Australian way. You might need to look up why this would be the case!!!

Whitlock, originally from Brisbane, famously dumped his wife and children to concentrate on his darts career. He was runner up in the World Championship in 2008 and 2010. The long goatee and plaited mullet have become synonymous with darts fans worldwide. Whitlock is a magician the way he manouvers the arrows around the board, regularly leaving the maximum 170 finish, just to prove he can do it.  After another “short” break Whitlock and Nicholson then get to play pairs with people drawn from the crowd….. YAWN….

Another half an hour wasted as they played best of 5 legs at 701……. Twice…… Not a great spectator show….. Guess what we had then – Did I hear you say darts????? No, no, no… we had a bit of a break, just to catch our breath in time for the ……. fancy dress parade!!!!! Can you see a pattern emerging????

Eventually, The Asset did take on the Wizard in the headline act… The Don Smallgoods Invitational Challenge. In a blaze of autographs and handshakes, the Wizard blew the Asset out of the water, but by that stage of the night, no-one really cared. As long as the punters got to stroke a piece of the mullet or try on Nicholson’s sunglasses, they were happy!!! No doubt they will come again next time. I doubt I will, unless I’m on a stag night!

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I spotted this in the local paper too:

In one of the biggest pieces of news you may have missed this week, Etihad Stadium folks: “Dart champions Simon ‘The Wizard’ Whitlock and Paul ‘The Asset’ Nicholson have set a joint new world record of 5.235m for the longest distance to throw a bullseye while preparing for (the) unique Don Smallgoods Darts Invitational Challenge, at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium.

Sums it up really. No mention of the match itself!!!

DON SMALLGOODS INVITATIONAL

WINNER: SIMON WHITLOCK (AUS)

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Number of Events

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Number of Sports

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Gigs (Bands: Headlines + Support)

TBC

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