Kiwi fans target world darts masters


It's a sport you'd associate with beer and pubs, not big crowds and millions of dollars -- but darts is growing in popularity.

Some of the sport's biggest stars are in Auckland for the Darts Masters, which gets underway on Friday.

In the world of darts, these men have hit the bullseye.

Raymond van Barneveld has won five world titles, while current world champion Gary Anderson has won two.

Ken McDowall from Te Awamutu has none, yet.

He's an avid darts fan who won the chance to go up against his favourite player, Anderson.

"I'm very, very delighted to meet him and I'm very, very nervous, but really, really looking forward to it," Mr McDowall says.

"And looking forward to giving him a game. Hopefully I can give him a game."

He's not the only one who's nervous.

"I am [nervous], yes," Anderson says. "Yes, I haven't lifted a dart for about a week so I'm a bit shaky."

Anderson and the other superstars of the darts world are in Auckland for the Darts Masters, which gets underway on Friday.

Once considered a pub sport, fans now pack out arenas around the world.

Last year Auckland hosted the Darts Masters for the first time and it was a huge success with a sell-out crowd.

This year it's expected to be the same.

"Over the last five or six years, since Sky have been putting it on TV, it's been really coming alive," Mr McDowall says.

"It's actually a really growing event here in New Zealand which is good to see."

Anderson says he's still amazed by how much he gets to travel with the sport.

"If you told me five years ago where we would be now, we probably would've just laughed at you," Anderson says.

"No way would we have gone to Australia or New Zealand for the game of darts, and now we're going all over the globe."

And they're generating a huge following along the way.