CROSS BEGINS BID FOR BACK-TO-BACK TITLES IN WOLLONGONG
Rob Cross will begin his bid for back-to-back World Series of Darts titles at the PalmerBet New South Wales Darts Masters on Friday, as Damon Heta prepares to lead home hopes in Wollongong.
The second staging of the NSW Darts Masters takes place at the WIN Entertainment Centre on August 11-12, with 16 players competing for £60,000 in prize money and the sixth World Series title of 2023.
World Champion Michael Smith and top seed Gerwyn Price headline this year’s field, as Cross bids to round off this year’s Oceanic double-header in style after winning last weekend's NZ Darts Masters.
Cross produced a superb comeback from 5-2 down in the Hamilton final on Saturday to deny World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall, and will open his challenge in Wollongong against DPNZ qualifier John Hurring.
The 2018 World Champion also dumped out reigning champion Price on his way to glory, ending his two-year wait for a televised title in the process.
“To win last weekend was absolutely amazing,” admitted Cross, who celebrated World Series success in Australia at the Brisbane Darts Masters back in 2018.
“When you can win [a title] when you’ve not been at your best, it speaks volumes about where my game is.
“Whatever you’re winning, you’ve got to be great because the standard is so high.
“I’ll look in a few months and see where we’re at, but I am just living in the moment for the minute, and I’m really happy to be winning again.”
Australian number one Heta will feature as one of the eight PDC representatives in Friday’s first round, as the sport’s biggest names take on eight Oceanic representatives on a bumper opening night.
Heta has made sustained progress over the last 18 months, breaking into the world’s top 16 and guiding Australia to a maiden World Cup triumph last June alongside Simon Whitlock.
The 36-year-old will face compatriot Joe Comito for a place in the last eight, and Heta – a quarter-finalist at last month’s World Matchplay – is revelling in his return to home soil.
“It’s absolutely massive. I’m loving every minute of it,” claimed Heta, who burst on to the scene with victory at the Brisbane Darts Masters in 2019.
“I’m just soaking all the time up with my friends and family at the moment.
“You could say I’ve taken the torch off Simon for a bit. He’s held it for a long while, so I want to do good things, I want to win titles and keep that momentum going.
“The PDC have been coming Down Under for ten years now, so players are getting the experience. It’s time for us to push on now, because the standard is there.”
World number one Smith will also be eyeing a return to winning ways in Wollongong, having succumbed in the semi-finals of last weekend’s NZ Darts Masters to an inspired Aspinall.
The St Helens star slipped to a 7-3 defeat despite averaging 107, but having under-performed earlier in the event is hoping to add a fourth World Series of Darts crown to his haul at the WIN Entertainment Centre.
“I’m trying too hard to play like a World Champion and a world number one,” conceded Smith, a winner at the inaugural Bahrain Darts Masters in January.
“I’m putting too much pressure on myself, but I’ve never had to experience anything like this before.
“It’s a learning curve, it’s a new experience, but I know I’ll get over it. I know I can win these events, I’ve won three of them before and I know what I can do.
“I’m always looking forward to playing darts. As long as I’m confident and I’m in a good place, I believe I can win anything.”
Friday’s stand-out first round tie will see World Matchplay champion Aspinall meet Australian legend Simon Whitlock, who combined with Heta to inspire Australia to their World Cup success last year.
Elsewhere, top seed Price opens his challenge against Melbourne’s Harley Kemp, as Wales’ reigning World Cup champion continues his search for a first World Series title of 2023.
Peter Wright and Dimitri Van den Bergh suffered shock opening round exits in Hamilton, and the pair kick off their campaigns against experienced duo Darren Penhall and Dave Marland respectively.
Meanwhile, Dutch number two Danny Noppert – making his first appearance in Australia – has been pitted against televised debutant Brenton Lloyd in the opening match of the tournament.
Friday's first round gets underway at 1900 local time (1000 BST), with the decisive quarter-finals, semi-finals and final to follow on Saturday August 12.
The New South Wales Darts Masters will be broadcast live on Fox Sports in Australia, through DAZN in Germany, Austria and Switzerland and on PDCTV in all other global territories.
UK fans can watch live through PDCTV - subscription options include the PDCTV Summer Pass. Coverage on ITV4 in the UK will begin from 1900 BST on Friday and from 1700 BST on Saturday.
2023 PalmerBet NSW Darts Masters August 11-12, WIN Entertainment Centre, Wollongong Draw Bracket (1) Gerwyn Price v Harley Kemp Damon Heta v Joe Comito (4) Dimitri Van den Bergh v Dave Marland Nathan Aspinall v Simon Whitlock (2) Michael Smith v Mal Cuming Peter Wright v Darren Penhall (3) Rob Cross v John Hurring Danny Noppert v Brenton Lloyd
Friday August 11 (1900 local time) First Round Danny Noppert v Brenton Lloyd Dimitri van den Bergh v Dave Marland Damon Heta v Joe Comito Rob Cross v John Hurring Gerwyn Price v Harley Kemp Nathan Aspinall v Simon Whitlock Peter Wright v Darren Penhall Michael Smith v Mal Cuming
Saturday August 12 (1900 local time) Quarter-Finals Semi-Finals Final
Format First Round - Best of 11 legs Quarter-Finals - Best of 11 legs Semi-Finals - Best of 13 legs Final - Best of 15 legs