Mardle: Biggest challenge now for players is hunger

Wayne Mardle writes exclusively for Oche:


It’s unbelievable what has happened to this sport.

Just 20 years ago the winner of the PDC World Championship got 31 grand, the total prize fund was £111,000.

Nowadays some players are probably wearing Rolex watches worth more than the Champion got two decades ago.

That is utter lunacy!

In my mind, darts has to have been the fastest-growing sport on the planet.

But perhaps that underlines the most significant dilemma for the modern day darts superstar.

Yes, of course, it’s mind-blowing and magnificent to win life-changing amounts of dosh.

Just have a quick glance down the Order of Merit and there’s cash next to some names that look more like a mobile phone number.

With that comes luxury, security and an easy life.

And that my friend is the biggest ENEMY of a sportsperson.

In just a few years darts is suddenly becoming the next golf; big sponsors, big TV deals, just mega big time.

Nowadays the biggest challenge for the very top players is hunger.

The comfort zone ain’t a good place to be. 

The beast that was Phil Taylor’s incessant drive to practice, practice, practice and then win, win, win was all born out of his working class upbringing. He had worked every day making 75p toilet handles. 

He wanted a better life for his family and that gave him that hunger.

However even when Phil got to the good life, he still wanted to win. But Phil was a freak!

The difference for the 21st century darting star is getting out of bed, not driving your flash car and hitting the practice board. Constantly. Trust me, it sounds like a first world problem, and it is. But if you want to keep on winning, you need to work harder than you did ever before.

You need to find new goals, new targets, new pressure. 

This is why you have to admire Michael van Gerwen. He’s not quite got the fierce drive of Phil, but he’s not far off.

Somehow the other guys have to find that extra level and motivation.

Now though you can make a very tidy living from being a serial quarter or semi-finalist. 

How do those other guys find the extra edge?

That is the million quid question, literally.

There is some supremely-talented players out there. Rob Cross, Daryl Gurney, Adrian Lewis, James Wade, Gary Anderson, Peter Wright, Glen Durrant, Stephen Bunting. They’ve all done the business at some stage but can they find that higher level?

Or will it be left to the next generation of Gerwyn Price, Nathan Aspinall and co?

As well as hunger, you need consistency and the ability to win on your bad days.

To win a World Championship you have to win seven matches in the space of 20 days. It is highly unlikely you will be at your absolute best for all of those games. But grinding out a win along the way is the key.

Only a couple of players right now can win with their B game.

Whoever can win ugly will win majors. Boom!

Images by Taylor Lanning.

*Wayne Mardle: Slinging Arrows – How (not) to be a professional darts player is out on May 20.