NZ Darts Masters: Raymond van Barneveld, Peter Wright explore Hobbiton

Darts superstars Raymond van Barneveld and Peter Wright are rivals on the ocre, but found a common passion in the days leading up to this weekend's NZ Darts Masters.

'Barney' and 'Snakebite' spent a day off exploring the film set where The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies were created, just outside of Matamata.

Over the years, the attraction has seen a massive increase in popularity, with more than 3000 people from all over the world visiting each day. 

For Scot Wright, this was his first time exploring the set, but van Barneveld had been here before. You wouldn't know it from the beaming smile on his face. 

The 52-year-old Dutchman is a massive fan of the two film trilogies and an avid collector of figurines, not only from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but also Star Wars and Marvel superheroes. 

He previously visited four years ago, but was eager to see what had changed and show his new partner around. 

The two-hour tour encompassed 44 complete Hobbit holes, the mill, the bridge and the Green Dragon Inn, all retained in the same condition as when filming was completed. 

Van Barneveld will retire at the end of the year to focus on his health and spend more time with his grandkids, but he plans to come back to New Zealand and explore more of the country. 

Raymond van Barneveld checks out a Hobbit hole
Raymond van Barneveld checks out a Hobbit hole. Photo credit: Ben Francis

"I love this country, it's beautiful," he told Newshub. "All the people here are kind and helpful, which you don't see everywhere.

"I'm a massive fan of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies, so seeing the set is amazing. I saw things that I didn't notice during the first tour. 

"New Zealand is a place I want to visit for longer, so hopefully I can come back, and see more of this beautiful place and see some of nature."

For anyone who has never seen the films before, van Barneveld - who has seen both countless times - recommends watching the LOR first to gain a better understanding of the storyline. 

Wright, best known for his coloured-mohawk stage presence, also enjoyed the experience and spending more time in New Zealand, compared to previous visits. 

"Normally, we come here first and we're quite tired," he said. "But it's the end of the journey and I'm looking forward to seeing everything. 

"I'm looking forward to going to Hamilton, although I've been told there's not much to do there... but still excited to go."

Peter 'Snakebite' Wright in action
Peter 'Snakebite' Wright in action. Photo credit: Professional Darts Corporation

While the focus was on the films this day, both van Barneveld and Wright had their minds on this weekend's tournament, which starts on Friday evening. 

Van Barneveld will face Kiwi Cody Harris in the first round, while Wright faces Australian qualifier and Brisbane Darts Masters champion Damon Heta.

As a massive fan of New Zealand, van Barneveld is desperate to finally win, after losing the 2015 and 2018 finals, when the event was staged in Auckland. 

"This is my last world series, so it would mean so much to me if I can lift this trophy," van Barneveld told Newshub. 

"I have lots of respect for Cody, who has come all the way over to the UK to make it as a professional. He's a dangerous player. 

"I think he'll be happy being back, but not too happy, because then he might beat me. 

"I should have won in 2015, when I missed five match darts against Adrian Lewis in the final, and I'm still not over that."  

Van Barneveld first came to New Zealand in 2015, but his first memories of the country go all the way back to the 1999 World Darts Federation World Cup in South Africa. 

At the time, he knew little to nothing about New Zealand, and was surprised that Kiwi throwers Herbie Nathan and Warren Parry both made the semi-finals. 

Van Barneveld went on to win the title, beating Parry in the final.

"I played Warren in the final and two of the four semi-finalists were from New Zealand.

"I knew Australia was good and I didn't know how New Zealand played, but I've always kept my eye on the Kiwi players since."