Darts Nation: Wales’ outsize contribution to our game.

BACK in July 2020, Darts World revamped our regular print publication. One of the most popular new features has been the supplements or ‘pull-out’ that have regularly appeared in the editions since.

The Best of Darts World and Matchplay Magic have proven especially popular. For the latest edition we focus on the remarkable contribution of one nation to the darts’ story:

Red Dawn

Within a 5 year span, at the start of what could be called darts’ first golden age, representatives of a principality with a population of less than 3 million had claimed the seminal Indoor League televised darts contest twice and been runner up on another two occasions. 

With the birth of the World Masters in 1974 and World Championships two years later the contribution of Wales was disproportionate and outstanding. 

Alan Evans had already created the model, for the era of professional players, before he became World Master in 1975 but the original ‘Darts Nation’ was barely getting started.

Two years later saw the inaugural World Cup. Organised by the nascent WDF and held in London it is easy to imagine that an England side including Eric Bristow and John Lowe would have begun its dominance. The Welsh had other ideas.

The Dragons breathed fire throughout claiming the team event, the singles and the overall title. The combative Evans and the supremely gifted Leighton Rees were given solid support by David Jones and Phil Obbard

This was Rees in his pomp. It was he who had claimed the Indoor league twice in its early years and had reached the final of the News of the World event the year before. The stage was set then for the very first darts World championship and in 1978. The eyes of the darting world were fixed on the heart of the Midlands club where the very best would gather to battle it out for the first time.

Ynysybwl man Rees had no easy time of it either. He had to take on compatriot Evans before dispatching the USA’s Nicky Verachkul in a decider to reach the first final. Waiting there would be the implacable John Lowe.

In case any skeptics out there should question the standard in these early days perhaps this summary will assist: Rees used self-made darts of three different weights (around 27-29g), the board had thicker wires and more staples than your local Wicks store and still he averaged 97 vs  Evans, 93.8 in an earlier round and 92.4 in the final. Thirty years later, with all the improvements in equipment, Mark Webster averaged 92.07 in his winning final and did not register above 97 in any round.

The final was anticipated to be a close affair but Leighton had other ideas. The legendary Welshman built a three and four-leg lead and retained through to the final victory at 11-7. 

At this moment Wales were World Cup champions, had the World Cup singles Champion, and now the first professional World Champion in Rees. The opening salvo of darts’ new era had been fired from the valleys of Wales and had immediately hit the target.

The Return of the Dragon

Our special 12-page supplement, in ‘Issue 576’ of Darts World Magazine, traces the legacy of Rees and Evans through the contributions of Richie Burnett, Mark Webster, and many more, through to the current Welsh dominance of elite arrows through Clayton and Price.

We look at the background of that initial success, the role played in shaping the model of professional players and the contributions of Welsh women players, and a whole host of players who made a contribution along the way.

Whether it is ‘The Lost Prince of Wales or Warrior Webster and their struggles to master both codes or the feats in darting team events promoted initially by the WDF, and then with the PDC’s World Cup of Darts, Wales punched above their weight and refused to fade from view.

Today we see a new flood of Welsh success, led by Gerwyn Price but backed up by Wayne Warren and Jonny Clayton with more waiting to come through.

The Return of the Dragon gives a great overview of this outsized contribution to the success of our game. Grab your copy of DW 576 and soon you’ll be seeing red too.

Lead image: Darts World
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