The Indoor League: Game On



I’ve turned into a couch potato. “Who hasn’t?” I hear you say. Much Christmas pud combined with the test cricket and the Sydney – Hobart yacht race has turned many an active man into a sporting degenerate.


But it’s not the usual Aussie pastimes that have taken me aside. It’s the Old Dart and their long worshipped ‘sport’ of darts.


As a kid growing up the ABC would beam the likes of John (Jocky) Wilson and Eric (The Crafty Cockney) Bristow into our lounge rooms as they would wow the crowds at Frimley Green with their antics on the world darts stage. I loved their athleticism and the ability to consume massive amounts of lager between shots as they strove for championship honors. And the call of one hundred & eighteeee would echo around the halls when the heroes completed the perfect shot.


But of late the renaissance of world darts has gone to heights of never before.

Every year from mid-December to New Year’s Day, 72 of the worlds best compete for the World Dart Championship. At stake is a million quid, 250,000 of which goes to the last man standing along with the prestigious Sid Waddell trophy.


Nicknames are all the rage in darts and none more so than those of the modern era, among them Phil “The Power” Taylor, James “The Machine” Wade, Wes “The Warrior” Newton. Kevin “The Artist” Painter and Andy “The Hammer” Hamilton.


On New Year’s Eve, with great expectation, my dart consultant Stephen “Craney” Crane joined me in the lounge room for a 6 am appointment for the much anticipated semi finals. How often do you hear Monday’s experts trumpet that the semi or preliminary finals are the best? Beamed live via Sky Sports we shuffled the Christmas tree to one side so we could spread out a little. In the lead up I witnessed the upset second round elimination of 14 times World Champion Phil “The Power” Taylor by up and comer and World Youth Champion Michael “Bully Boy” Smith.


First up in the semis was Aussie hope Simon “The Wizard” Whitlock pitted against Peter “The Snakebite” Wright. Wright had been playing “above himself”, whatever that means, recently and the anticipation was “The Wizard” would prevail despite some indifferent darts and close shaves in the past week. “Craney” declared if “The Wizard” can “go all the way” I’ll grow a ponytail,” such is his devotion to the man and the sport. It wasn’t to be, as the canny Scot “The Snake” bit hard and long before dispatching “The Wizard” 6 sets to 2. “The Snake” was at one stage averaging 105 (finished at 100) and had a mortgage on double 16 with a remarkable 76% checkout rate. “There’s always next year,” lamented “Craney”.


It was now after 8am, mid telecast and with a break for all “The Police” (aka Mrs. Sharpen) produced a feed of poached eggs and ham (there’s a bit of it around), followed by marmalade on toast and a nice pot of Earl Grey Tea.


Suitably refreshed “Craney” remarked how he felt like a game right now such was the excitement and tension in the room. As the man himself, Sid Waddell once said, “The atmosphere is so tense, if Elvis walked in with a portion of chips, you could hear the vinegar sizzle on them.”


It is amazing to engage in conversation early of a morning with some one you know. Bright, clear of any substance, fresh of wit and mind. Very revealing. “Craney” began to reminisce about his darting exploits when playing with Hobart’s Duke of York Hotel in the local league. And how he “crunched” local legend Joe “The Blast Furnace” Jepson in a grand final; checking out from 27 with a six, a five and a miss, followed by three shots at double 8. The last of which apparently crunched “The Blast Furnace”. “Craney” is a laid back character but his revelation that he once experienced a dose of dartitis, an affliction not too dissimilar to the yips at golf, was surprising. He recalled it left him with late delivery (of the dart) finding it almost impossible to release; once throwing one into his right foot. It was during the summer roster and unfortunately he was only wearing thongs.


Next we hear “Game on”, the catch cry of all darts commentators. So it was left to last year’s runner up “Mighty Mike” van Gerwen and Adrian “Jackpot” Lewis to do battle for the last spot in the New Year’s Day Grand Final. In appearance the combatants resembled Gary Ablett Jnr and Nathan Tinkler. In a replica of the opening game “Jackpot” was never in the hunt despite some passages of absolute brilliance. On the other hand “Mighty Mike” was devastating and his checkouts unbelievable. He chopped “Jackpot”, a dual championship winner, to pieces before advancing with a 6 sets to NIL routing. Now we await the final in great anticipation as “Mighty Mike” van Gerwen takes on “Snakebite” Wright.


Reflection and a brief analysis sends “Craney” back to the future. “If only I’d kept at it, I could made a career of the caper,” he reminisces. The Police quickly remarks, “Why don’t you have a go? By the look of it you’re not too old and you’ve both certainly got the physique.”





D Sharpen

31 Dec 2013


  1. Steve Baker says

    Great read.

    Have teed up interviews with Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor for Melbourne radio a few times. A genuinely good bloke for a multi-World Champion. A ripping fella, no airs or graces.

  2. Hamish Townsend says

    Jocky Wilson’s win in the 89 World title sporned one the best pieces of commentary in the history of sport, by the great Sid Wadell. As the short, fat, alcoholic Wilson pinned “the tungsten” to claim the title, Waddell yelped with his usual gusto, “what an athlete!”

    Every man should have a dart board and learn to play with a pint in the other hand.

    Nice story Daryl. I liked it, “dartitis” sounds like something to avoid.

  3. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Another one of my pointless Dexy’s references

  4. Lovely stuff Daryl. Can you get ‘The Police’ to write for us?

  5. Paul Daffey says

    Beautiful Dazz (Or is “Sharpy”?),

    I felt like I was there in the Hobart loungeroom with you.

    Good darts.

  6. Looking forward to the final though thought the MVG/Lewis semi would be the jewel. “Fat Ablett” (MGV) looks a moral.
    It got too hot and I was too bloated late Xmas arvo for any more cricket, so we reverted to darts – young fellas still beat us! Great fun.

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