Welcome back to the OpenOdds Darts Round Up, as the Antipodean leg of the PDC World Series reaches its third and final week. Brisbane and Melbourne are now in the books, and like a fan of musicals in late 2016, it’s all about Hamilton now. The New Zealand Masters takes place this weekend, and the darts world has been put on notice that the sport’s biggest star has found his form. More on that in a moment as we run down the news from Melbourne.
For the New Zealand segment of the World Series, there has been a change to the running order due to the withdrawal of Corey Cadby. The Australian prospect has pulled out for personal reasons, and due to his timely departure from the event, there has been time to find a replacement to take his place in the draw. The lucky outsider is New Zealand’s Warren Parry, which means there is an extra home player for the crowd to throw their weight behind – although possibly not for long, as Parry has been drawn to face Rob Cross in the first round.
Let’s have a look at what went down in Melbourne, the implications for Hamilton, and what the bookmakers have to say about the coming event.
Eighth time’s the charm – MvG is back in the winner’s enclosure
2019 has been a mixed year for Michael van Gerwen; he won the World Championship to kick off the year and, in may, retained his Premier League title by defeating Cross in the final. Aside from those events, though, he’s been oddly underpowered, losing to BDO champ Glenn Durrant in the second round of the World Matchplay among a run of seven tournaments without a title. Had his dodgy run continued in Melbourne, he would have matched his 2014 milestone of eight unsuccessful competitions.
The good news for MvG, and potentially very bad news for every other player, is that the Dutch master found his form in a big way, averaging over 100 for the first time in months as he defeated Gary Anderson in the quarter finals, then going on to take out Peter Wright 8-0 in the semis, and taking the crown by winning against Daryl Gurney in the final. With a shot at his critics, van Gerwen stated in his post-match interview that “form is temporary, class is permanent” and that he hoped to make it two out of three in the NZ Masters. William Hill have him as 11/8 favourite to do so, and he’s certainly the man to beat.
Heta brings the Heat, but no Brisbane repeat
Home star and rank outsider Damon Heta pulled off a major surprise in Brisbane by picking off four seeded players on his way to the title, starting with a win over James Wade. In Melbourne, he repeated the previous week’s first-round heroics, defeating Wade again in a 6-1 blowout. However, that’s where his impressive winning streak stopped for now, as his quarter-final against Rob Cross – who he defeated in the Brisbane final – ended with the Englishman gaining a measure of revenge, winning 8-3. Nonetheless, we shouldn’t let a loss against one of the world’s best diminish what Heta has achieved across two weeks of competition – in Melbourne, he was the only non-seed to even make the quarters.
He now faces Scotsman Peter Wright in the opening round of competition in Hamilton. Wright, who will be itching to get back to the oche after a one-sided loss against van Gerwen, will be under no illusions as to the task ahead of him. Heta, meanwhile, will be looking at the draw and thinking that if he can get past Wright, his last-eight opponent is likely to be James Wade. Any win for The Heat in the first round will see his 50/1 SportingBet odds tumbling precipitously, so it may be worth a short punt on him before the tournament gets underway on Friday. It would be a stunning achievement if he could pull off a second win in three tournaments, but he’s already far exceeded expectations, so there’s no reason to think lightning can’t strike twice.
Barney’s Last Stand: Chance for a shock in Hamilton?
The final year of Raymond van Barneveld’s professional darts career has had few highlights. Knocked out of the Premier League at the earliest possible stage, he’s also had to take time off for health reasons and has, consistently, exited early in the tour events he has played. It’s not looked like an end befitting the great player he once was, but there was some sign in Melbourne that a final hurrah may be possible. In taking out Haupai Puha in the first round, Barney threw the highest average of the entire tournament – an impressive 106.13 – and was a narrow loser to Peter Wright in the quarters. His patchy form has meant that even without an odds boost, he’s been at long odds to win any tournament, but he is in the more favourable half of this week’s draw – avoiding MvG and Rob Cross until the final at least.
Let’s make no mistake, the former World Champion is 33/1 with Ladbrokes for a reason – his ranking has fallen so far that at the World Cup, he was supplanted in the Dutch team by Jermaine Wattimena. Nonetheless, that average thrown against Puha shows what he’s still capable of when he’s on a good day. If you fancy a cheeky, possibly sentimental punt this week, then it could well be the case that van Barneveld is worth a look. He may need to take out Daryl Gurney at the quarter-final stage, but if he can do that, then the past few weeks have shown that even miracles are possible at this level of darts.