The Perth International Darts Masters: A night at the opera

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA.

The bouncer is bemused as he is overworked at the Wembley Hotel telling The Queen and some Fat Cat/Percy Penguin like hybrid they’re okay to come in. Two guys in what seems like Mrs Brown’s garb are smoking in what was the beer garden next to the beautiful people while someone in my crew dressed as Thor but with the physique of  Billy Brownless has gone around the corner to size up the TAB prices. The reason why it’s a cacophony of dress ups isn’t because of a 40th birthday or some Western Suburbs cosplay meet. It’s because the Darts are in town.

The Perth International Darts Masters has been looked forward to for weeks by many who play the sport in pubs across the State, watch the pomp and ceremony on TV or just feel it would good night on the turps. Some of us are in the Wembley down the road from Challenge Stadium to get a couple of quick jars in and catch some of the Friday night footy the best way it can be watched with Channel 7’s commentary. On mute.

Our group have decided to go as superheroes. I copped Spiderman. There’s Thor, Wonder ‘Woman’, Superman, the Green Lantern and Iron Man. Costume shop proprietors have dollar signs for eye balls this week. Exiting the Taxi down the road at Challenge Stadium brings more bemusement. Those who are not dressed up seem uncomfortable. It’s like they didn’t get the memo. We spot Darth Vader and a collection of a dozen or so Stormtroopers. Most of the cast of Sesame Street are covered. There’s a high number of Super Marios and cross dressing is not only okay but seemingly embraced by anyone with facial hair. Then there’s the waft of dope smoke that’s seemingly everywhere yet no one bats an eyelid like its darts night in the smoking section at the Ambassador Tavern in Bassendean.

Once inside the first thing that grabs me (apart from wondering whose round it is) is how much the atmosphere reminds me of the times I’ve been dragged along to watch the WWE when it’s in town – yet put through a British prism. There’s much hooping and hollering and so many handwritten signs by people who look old enough to know better. Some just say ‘Bang! Bang!’ or a predictable ‘180!’  Some personal messages/abuse to mates not there but hopefully watching on TV. The pros have whiteboards with magic markers in case they think of another Oscar Wilde like comment to put up.

It’s loud and obnoxious and that generates a unique atmosphere. The qualifiers are first before the round robin with a bunch of the best from the West but everyone is here to see the headliners. There’s the new kid in town and current number 1 Van Gerwen who is only in his 20s yet doesn’t have a hair on his head. There’s the Aussie hope Simon Whitlock with that mullet, England’s Peter Wright who is the doppelganger of Geelong’s new mayor and of course Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor who has been everywhere in the Perth press promoting a near sell out event. As ugly as that face is it is the face of darts. Even fellow Stoke native Robbie Williams is a massive fan.

The tournament would be a round robin before going in to elimination on this night which is the first of three. The players walk out to a team song like they’re about to tag team with the Big Show or fight Tyson at Caesar’s Palace as they’re escorted to the front by barely dressed women. To a novice like me at first there’s no real booing, no real cheering, just yelling and noise at the players with the crowd trying to make themselves heard over the booming music. Everyone is in to it. While Whitlock is favoured being the best Aussie it’s Taylor who receives the biggest roar when he first enters the fray to the Snap hit ‘I’ve got the power’. He’s the everyman much like Michael Diamond was winning gold for Australia or Cliff Young shuffling from Sydney to Melbourne. The chant of ‘There’s only one Phil Taylor’ is loudest one of the night.

The plastic cups of beer are being poured for the punters like it’s the Boxing Day Test. I, like others probably, finally get my head around the scoring rules. Wally has been found numerous times considering there are eight of them. I’m one of those here for the event and not an aficionado and loving every minute of it. Van Gerwen is a joy to watch and is blitzing everyone along with Taylor as the barely dressed ladies pose on either side of the competitors. It’s hard to take it all seriously when on the big screens showing someone taking a shot has cookie monster and his boggle eyes in the background looking on intently. While Taylor turns around and gives a primal scream to the adoring crowd when he wins the Dutch champ seems to do some weird headbutt like celebration motion that’s a little disconcerting and perhaps a sign of a diagnosable disorder. Whitlock and another Aussie are doing well enough from the start but then fall off the pace. The latter almost defeats Van Gerwen which has the crowd pumping but in the end they’d be disappointed if not already drunk and joining in with the ‘oi! oi! oi!’ chant for the winner at the end of the every match.

Van Gerwen hits three 180s in a row in his last match of the night which everyone can’t help but join in on the call. Those in the good seats on the floor where the Wildcats used to play are getting very merry on the booze with most holding their plastic seats over their heads pumping them up and down like the sand people did with their sticks on Tatooine in Star Wars. There’s no trophy handed out tonight. Most wouldn’t have an idea about who is winning or the most in-form but now they’re all experts. The discussion in the beer queue is on how much the actual darts cost. Tens of thousands according to some. The prices differ on the bullshit artist talking. These are probably the same people that write Geelong off every year. By the end of the night there is no winner but the lads’night out is the winner with the drinking, the chanting and the general scallywag-ness of it all. It’s just as much as a pop culture phenomenon as it is a sporting event.

Outside the venue as disproportionate amount of people reach for a lung torpedo as the singing continues with some that vaguely look like a celebrity hoisted on to shoulders and sung at with “There’s only one…”. Some are picked up by WAGS, many begin the long wait for a taxi as the alcohol wears off. The flotsam and jetsam of bits of cheap costumes are strewn everywhere. A night that promised banter and delivered and can be thoroughly recommended for a unique experience. Let’s hope the TAB (who sponsored the event) isn’t sold off by the WA Government before it comes back next year. I think I’ll take on a more 80s footballer look for a costume in 2015.

 

 

 

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

Comments

  1. Dennis Gedling says

    On the downside can I point out that Challenge Stadium is still a shithole for any event and apparently on the second night they ran out of spirits 20 minutes in to the event.

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