Ever wondered how being a press member works when your covering one of the biggest darts events of the year for its oldest publication?
Thomas Bartley has reported for DW from venues including Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. How will a day at WV Active Aldersley match up;
3pm: After getting all the other, rather more boring activities of my day out of the way, it is time to do the final bits of prep for my evening at the darts. I also write and record a quick preview for Darts World.
4pm: Unfortunately, the first train I had planned to get was cancelled. I bide my time for a bit, hoping that is the end of my bad luck…
5:07pm: Just less than an hour later than planned, my train finally sets off. Thankfully, my connection is easy enough and then I am in Wolverhampton, not quite with time to spare. Something to eat will have to wait.
6pm: I had planned to take advantage of my NX West Midlands bus pass to make the hop over to Aldersley, but I am short of time. Uber beckons. My taxi driver tells me he has been busy with darts trips all week. And with no Wolves game today, darts is surely the only ticket in town.
6.30pm: I arrive at the WV Active in time to settle in and get set up for the session. Before long, the trophy makes an appearance and positions itself by my laptop. As trophies go, it’s not a bad one. Big enough to drink from, we concluded, and one of the most distinct on the tour.
7pm: Just as showtime begins, I make my way down to the floor to soak up the atmosphere. It is not the first time I have been but I am always amazed by the quality of the rigging job here. Remember, this is a leisure centre, but for a feted few days in November, it is transformed beyond recognition. It is very busy, a lot busier than it was on Monday night when I was here as a fan. You just can’t beat a Saturday night at the darts…
7.15pm: It’s time for the first match of the night, as Stephen Bunting faces Stowe Buntz. The American has far surpassed expectations in Wolverhampton this week, but will he meet his maker with the experienced Bullet?
8:45pm: It wasn’t always an inevitability, but in the end Bunting was too much for his closely named opponent. After a tight couple of opening sessions, the former BDO World Champion just started to pull away, a crucial pair of ton-plus outs from 9-6 up doing the damage. In his post-match press conference, he seemed customarily relaxed and confident. Will it be enough for a tough slog of a day on Sunday?
9.15pm: Next up, it was time for Rob Cross v. Damon Heta. A hard one to call – on the one hand, this Grand Slam has a Cross victory all over it, but can it really be that much longer before Heta makes a semi-final of a big event? The first few games are a little tense and slow-building, but promise a close-run thing.
10pm: Wow, I was not expecting that. Was anyone? Rob Cross barely broke a sweat to beat Damon Heta in the end, finishing with a flourish of 10 legs on the bounce. After the match, Cross was keen to stress that it was one game at a time and nothing more. But surely he will back himself against Bunting on that form. Does he have what it takes to go all the way?
10.30pm: After quickly firing off my report, it was time to make a dash for the last train home. For some reason, the Saturday service is a lot worse than weekdays in the West Midlands, and so I must make a train by 11 or face a more troublesome route home. The city’s busy tonight, as the darts-going traffic meets those on a rather more timid, standard night out. I know which I’d rather choose.
12am: Returned home, I put the finishing touches to a few last bits, including my video recap. Then it’s time for a bit of food and, most importantly, bed. ‘Til next time!
Images: Kieran Cleeves / PDC
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