NZ Darts Masters: Michael Van Gerwen returns to defend title in Hamilton

Reigning NZ Darts Masters champion Michael Van Gerwen
Reigning NZ Darts Masters champion Michael Van Gerwen. Photo credit: AAP

Reigning New Zealand Darts Masters champion Michael Van Gerwen will return to defend his title, when the sport’s biggest names head to Hamilton in August. 

Nine of the 16 players have been confirmed for the New Zealand leg of the Professional Darts Corporation’s (PDC) world series, which will take place at Claudelands Arena in August 23-24, after four years in Auckland. 

Van Gerwen will hope to become the first player to successfully defend the NZ title since the Darts Masters came to New Zealand, but he’ll face some tough competition this time round. 

Joining Van Gerwen will be former world champions Gary Anderson and Rob Cross, alongside fan favourite Peter Wright and two-time PDC major winner Daryl Gurney. 

New Zealand’s Cody Harris will return from the UK to compete in the country's biggest darting spectacle. Australian trio Simon Whitlock, Kyle Anderson and Corey Cadby will also take part. 

Aussie Anderson and Cadby contested the 2017 final, with Anderson winning 11-10 for his first televised PDC title. 

Despite a tough field, three-time world champion Van Gerwen is confident he can defend his crown. 

"I've got great memories of coming to New Zealand in recent years and it will be fantastic to play in Hamilton in August," said Van Gerwen.

"The World Series is great for darts and it's fantastic for fans in places like New Zealand to get to see us live each year. I know it's a long time until we are in Hamilton, but it's a title I'd love to win."

Further PDC stars for the NZ Darts Masters will be confirmed, alongside qualifiers from the domestic circuits in New Zealand and Australia.

The New Zealand qualifiers will take place on June 29-30, with a location still to be confirmed. 

Last year, seven Kiwis took part, with Mark McGrath creating history, when he beat Michael Smith to become the first New Zealander to win in the world series event.

On top of that, Whitlock and Cross both survived match darts against Kiwis Ben Robb and John Hurring respectively. 

PDC boss Matt Porter told Newshub earlier this year that the NZ Darts Masters provided the toughest competition for world's best. 

"There are plenty of guys on the DartPlayers New Zealand [DPNZ] circuit who are more than capable of qualifying and competing at this level. 

"We've found that the local qualifiers are getting better each year. We've had winners and players lose 6-5, 6-4. 

"The PDC players don't see these games as walkovers and the standard of local players in New Zealand, in particular, is really high - probably the highest of anywhere we go."