Darts: World champ Peter Wright disappointed COVID-19 forced NZ Darts Masters cancellation

Darts superstar Peter Wright admits he's disappointed the COVID-19 pandemic has denied him the chance to compete at the annual NZ Darts Masters as world champion. 

The NZ tournament was scheduled for August in Hamilton, with Wright headlining the draw, after beating Michael van Gerwen for his first world title this year. History-making female player Fallon Sherrock was also among the entries, but instead, the event will take place in 2021. 

But the event, which sees the world's best players compete against local qualifiers, was one of five international events on the Professional Darts Corporations' (PDC) World Series of Darts, with others scheduled in the US, Australia and Denmark.

Despite the cancellation of the tournaments, the World Series of Darts Finals still went ahead in Austria, where 2000 socially distanced fans were allowed inside the Salzburgarena.

Like all sports, darts has been impacted by the coronavirus, with many tournaments relocated or cancelled, and without fans, so Scotsman Wright has been unable to hear the crowds chant his name.

But missing out on the chance to travel the world to see all the fans was disappointing for Wright. 

"I was looking forward to coming to New Zealand, having some amazing outfits and hair do's, and seeing all the fans as world champion," he says. 

"I look forward to getting to New Zealand after a long flight, and walking up and down the big hills.

"I miss it, because the fans always turn out and even the players who qualify are excellent." 

Wright and Aussie Simon Whitlock are the only two PDC professionals to have competed in New Zealand every year, since the event was first staged in 2015. 

Peter Wright.
Peter Wright. Photo credit: Photosport

The 50-year-old reached the semi-finals of the World Series of Darts Finals, losing to Welshman Gerwyn Price, who went on to win the title. 

With many events pushed back, the PDC schedule is full-on for the rest of the year and Wright hopes fans will be allowed to attend those events. 

The world championships, scheduled for December, is the biggest event on the calendar, but won't have the same glitz and glamour if fans are not allowed to attend.

Wright is urging everyone to be "sensible" in a bid to restore some normality and hopefully get more fans back in venues. 

"It was amazing to have the fans back," says Wright. "I interacted with the crowd and they were fantastic.

Socially-distanced fans watch Peter Wright face Gerwyn Price and the World Series of Darts Finals.
Socially-distanced fans watch Peter Wright face Gerwyn Price and the World Series of Darts Finals. Photo credit: PDC Europe

"The PDC has done a great job to have the fans back, but people have to be sensible - that's what has happened with the lockdown. 

"It was lifted, everyone went back on holiday, and nobody stuck by the rules, and that's why everything went pear-shaped again. 

"We haven't been able to represent the darts all around the world, which is a shame, but I urge people to be sensible, so we can get things back to normal."

After winning the World Series of Darts Finals, Price, who beat former world champion Rob Cross 11-9 in the decider, hopes to be one of the PDC representatives traveling the world, including New Zealand. 

"I was looking forward to coming downunder this year, but due to the circumstances, it didn't happen, so hopefully I'm on that plane next year," says Price. 

New Zealand's Cody Harris, who is based in Germany, also competed at the World Series of Darts Finals, but was eliminated in the second round by Northern Irishman Daryl Gurney.