NZ Darts Masters: Meet the players competing in Hamilton

World darts' biggest names are back in New Zealand for the fifth instalment of the Darts Masters on August 23-24.

This year, the tournament will be staged in a new city and over a new format that will provide more entertainment for fans. 

Hamilton is the new host city, with two days - instead of three - of action at the Claudelands Arena, with quarter-finals, semis and final played shorter formats. 

The 16-man tournament will feature six of the world's top eight exponents, while four Kiwis and four Australians make up the Oceania qualifiers.

Here's a rundown on whose taking part:

Michael 'Mighty Mike' van Gerwen

World ranking: First

Walk-on song: 'Seven Nation Army' by White Stripes

The three-time world champion returns to New Zealand, hoping to become the first man to successfully defend the title, since the Darts Masters came to our shores. 

After struggling in Brisbane, he went on to win the Melbourne Darts Masters on Saturday, making him - again - the man to beat at Hamilton. 

To date, the Dutchman has won nine titles in 2019, including the world championships and the Premier League. 

Rob 'Voltage' Cross

World ranking: Second

Walk-on song: 'Hot Hot Hot' by Arrow

The Englishman has rediscovered the form that saw him win the 2017 world title. 

He admitted he was struggling with the newfound fame, but with the pressure of being currently world champion off his shoulders, the former electrician has taken his game to new levels. 

Rob Cross won the 2018 world darts championship in his debut season.
Rob Cross won the 2018 world darts championship in his debut season. Photo credit: AAP

Earlier in the year, Cross reached the final at the UK Open, Premier League and European Darts Open, and then was victorious in the prestigious World Matchplay last month. 

He reached the final of the Brisbane Darts Masters, but lost to qualifier Damon Heta - who is also competing in Hamilton - while reaching the semis in Melbourne. 

Daryl 'Superchin' Gurney

World ranking: Third

Walk-on song: 'Sweet Caroline' by Neil Diamond 

The Northern Irishman returns to New Zealand at a career-high world ranking.

Gurney has two major televised titles, winning the 2017 World Grand Prix and the 2018 Players Championship finals. 

In March, he picked up his first European Tour title at the German Darts Championship and lost to van Gerwen in the Melbourne final. 

Gary 'The Flying Scotsman' Anderson 

World ranking:  Fifth

Walk-on song: 'Jump Around' by House of Pain

The 2016 Auckland champion missed the start of the 2019 season with a serious back injury and is still working towards the form that saw him win back-to-back world championships. 

In June, Anderson teamed up with Peter Wright to help Scotland win their first World Cup of Darts title. 

Peter 'Snakebite' Wright

World ranking: Sixth

Walk-on song: 'Don't Stop The Party' by Pitbull

The flamboyant character is starting to find form and will always prove to be a tough opponent to beat. 

Peter Wright in action at the NZ Darts Masters.
Peter Wright in action at the NZ Darts Masters. Photo credit: Photosport

Last month, he won the German Darts Masters and sits atop the world series standings, heading into the final event. 

Wright is always a fan favourite with his colourful outfits and bright mohawk that changes colour every day. 

James 'The Machine' Wade

World ranking: Eighth 

Walk-on song: 'The Boys Are Back In Town' by Thin Lizzy 

Wade has recently returned to form after a slight drop off between 2017-18. 

This will be the Englishman's fourth time in New Zealand, after missing out on the trip downunder last year. 

In October, Wade ended his four-year wait for a televised PDC title by lifting the European Championship, which he backed up with the World Series of Darts Finals title a week later.

Simon 'The Wizard' Whitlock

World ranking: 11th

Walk-on song: 'Down Under' by Men At Work

The most successful Australian darts player sports a distinctive beard-mullet combo and has the skills to beat anybody when he's on form. 

Whitlock was a finalist at the 2010 world championships and led Australia to the final of the 2012 World Cup of Darts.  

He reached the semi-finals of the Brisbane Darts Masters two weeks ago. 

Raymond 'Barney' van Barneveld

World ranking: 35th

Walk-on song: 'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor

The Dutch legend will aim to capture the NZ title in his final year as a professional darts players. 

He's reached the final twice, but hasn't lifted the trophy. He often speaks highly about NZ and, no doubt, winning here would mean a lot to him.

After a disastrous Premier League, 'Barney' announced his retirement on the spot, but later backtracked, as he attempts to end his career at the world championships. 

OCEANIA QUALIFIERS

 

Kyle 'The Original' Anderson

World ranking: 28th

Walk-on song: 'Solid Rock' by Street Warriors (featuring Shannon Noll)

Anderson claimed his first televised title in New Zealand two years ago. 

Last month, he hit a nine-darter against Irishman Steve Lennon at Players Championship 19. 

He also reached the quarter-finals at the Brisbane and Melbourne Darts Masters. 

2017 Auckland Darts Masters champion Kyle Anderson.
2017 Auckland Darts Masters champion Kyle Anderson. Photo credit: Photosport

Corey 'The King' Cadby 

World ranking: 62th

Walk-on song: 'The Nights' by Avicii

The former youth world champion is back, after he was forced to withdraw last year, due to visa issues. 

In 2017, he reached the final in Auckland, where he lost to Kyle Anderson in the final.

His best achievement on the PDC circuit was reaching the final of the 2018 UK Open.  

Cody 'Code Star' Harris

World ranking: 130th

The Aucklander has been flying the New Zealand flag in darts overseas, after moving to the UK to try to earn a tour card on the professional circuit. 

While he has yet to gain his tour card, Harris has been in great form, which includes leading the New Zealand team to the World Cup quarter-finals, while also winning a Challenge Tour event and reaching another final. 

He also reached the final of the Scottish Open earlier this year, emerging from more than 1000 competitors. 

He has plenty of experience competing in Auckland and at the world championship. 

Craig 'CC' Caldwell 

The Wellentonian returns to the television stage, after competing at the 2015 Auckland Darts Masters. 

That same year, Caldwell became the only player to hit a nine-dart finish in a New Zealand ranking event. 

Haupai 'Hopes' Puha 

Much has changed for Puha, since he made his television debut in Auckland last year. 

He's gone on to dominate the NZ circuit and represent New Zealand at the World Cup of Darts. 

Puha was beaten by van Barneveld in the first rounds of both the Brisbane and Melbourne Masters.

Damon Heta beat Rob Cross to win the Brisbane Darts Masters title.
Damon Heta beat Rob Cross to win the Brisbane Darts Masters title. Photo credit: PDC

Damon 'The Heat' Heta 

The man from Perth has been one of the most consistent players on the Australian circuit and his form was rewarded, when he stunned the darting world to win the Brisbane Masters, beating Cross in the final. 

Ben 'Big Rig' Robb

Last year, the Cantabrian was a late call-up to the event, after 2017 finalist Corey Cadby pulled out with visa issues and he was one missed double away from beating Whitlock in a stunning upset. 

This year, he's had more time to prepare for the event and competed in Brisbane two weeks ago, losing 6-0 to van Gerwen. 

David 'Babyface' Platt

The thrower from Walsall has been around for a long time, first competing on the big stage at the 2003 world darts championship. He went on to make two more appearances, both against Phil Taylor in 2006 and 2017. 

He's also competed at the Auckland Darts Masters 2015, and appeared in Sydney, Perth and Melbourne. 

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