Darts: Family driving Darren Herewini towards professional dream

Darren Herewini at the Canterbury
Darren Herewini at the Canterbury Photo credit: Supplied

Family is a massive factor driving Porirua's Darren Herewini to become New Zealand's first professional darts player.

Known as 'Apocalypse', Herewini is on the verge of something special in the sport, after gaining valuable experience in one of the sport's biggest stages.

Earlier this year, Herewini came agonisingly close to achieving his dream at the Professional Darts Corporation's (PDC) qualifying school, where he finished 35th out of more than 400 competitors fighting for just 19 tour cards.

He has since returned to New Zealand and outlined goals for the year, before returning to the UK to give 'Q-School' another shot.

On and off the oche, family is always on Herewini's mind.

He wants to make his partner and young baby girl proud - first and foremost - while the recent loss of his nana also spurs him on to darting glory.

"I try to win games as quickly as possible to be with my family," Herewini told Newshub. "They're a massive motivation for me trying to achieve my goal."

If he does get his tour card, he'll leave behind his partner and daughter - along with his job as a sprinkler technician - while he attempts to go for glory in the UK.

"It will be tough [to leave them], but I do this for them.

"It is one of the goals to get back on that stage and get more exposure. I know what I need to do to succeed." 

Darren Herewini at the 2017 Auckland Darts Masters.
Darren Herewini at the 2017 Auckland Darts Masters. Photo credit: Photosport

Herewini has been throwing tungsten arrows for nearly 10 years and thanks his uncle for getting him into the sport.

"Every school holidays, I always travelled from Potaka to Porirua and my uncle would ask me for a game of darts.

"Once I knew I had potential, I took it seriously and now I'm one of the top players in New Zealand.

"My dad came out of retirement when I was interested in the game and he coached me from there.

"My whole family drove me into being successful in this game."

But the 27-year-old's family connection to darts goes further, with extended members of his whanau also fighting for the same goal.

Cousin Cody Harris is currently in the UK, contesting the Challenge Tour, and has had some success, which has seen him compete at World Cups for New Zealand and also at the prestigious world darts championship.

"Cody has given me heaps over the years we've known and played against each other.

"We're both Māori, we're both from New Zealand and we're family, so why not take on the world.

"Any advice he gives me is from his dad - he steals it from Uncle Sonny. He's a man of wisdom and when he talks to you at a tournament, you have to listen."

Phil Taylor presents Darren Herewini with the match board.
Phil Taylor presents Darren Herewini with the match board. Photo credit: Photosport

While Herewini hasn't had the same opportunities as Harris, he has had chances to play some big names during his time - including in his televised debut at the 2017 Auckland Darts Masters, where he faced 16-time world champion Phil Taylor.

Herewini lost the match 6-4, but he didn't shy away from the greatest ever arrowsmith, with some superb throwing, mixed in with some on-stage swagger.

"When the draw came out and I was playing Phil Taylor, my eyes lit up and my energy levels went through the roof. I was one of the last Kiwis to play him in his final year of darts.

"I was determined to give him ago, I wasn't going to slouch down. For me, if I have no crowd, I can't play - if I have a crowd I can play.

"It's more showing off. I bit of a hoorah."

One of his goals is to qualify for this year's Darts Masters in Hamilton on August 23-24, where he could face the likes of Michael Van Gerwen or Rob Cross, with the world watching.

He also finished inside the top 16 in the DartPlayers New Zealand (DPNZ rankings), which gives him a chance of qualifying for the PDC world championships.

Darren Herewini and Cody Harris.
Darren Herewini and Cody Harris. Photo credit: Photosport

If he misses out on that, Herewini has his eyes British Darts Organisation (BDO) world championships.

That seems like a real possibility, as he's currently second in the New Zealand Darts Council rankings, six points off the lead.

Herewini needs to get to number one to make that happen.

"With that [number one ranking], I can go to Lakeside and the Winmau world masters.

"I went to the world masters last year and that was a good experience.

"There are plenty more darts still to be thrown this year and I'm looking forward to it."

But making the PDC circuit remains a dream, with the golden carrot being a chance to become the first New Zealander to achieve that feat.

If he does get his tour card before Harris, Herewini plans to let him know all about it.

"I'll rub it in Cody's face," Herewini said, before bursting out in laughter. "I was two points away from becoming New Zealand's first professional at Q-School.

"There is always next year. Cody came really close, but the guy he didn't want to win won it and dropped him out of the top two - it is what it is.

"It fluctuates in many ways, and the game is up and down all the time."

But whatever he achieves in the sport, making his family proud will always be Herewini's ultimate goal.