The World Series of Darts heads to the Globox Arena in Hamilton, New Zealand for the first of a pair of star-studded events Down Under.
The New Zealand Darts Masters sees eight big-hitting PDC arrowsmiths take on eight Oceania representatives.
It’s an intriguing event, with a strong home challenge including former BDO World Championship finalist Simon Whitlock, while capable performers Ben Robb and Haupai Puha are also in the field.
There is no Michael van Gerwen or Jonny Clayton in this year’s renewal, but recent World Matchplay king Nathan Aspinall will take to the board alongside Michael Smith, Peter Wright, Gerwyn Price, Rob Cross, Danny Noppert and Dimitri Van den Bergh and Australian arrowsmith Damon Heta.
Price and Whitlock will go head-to-head in what should be a cracking first-round contest, while Robb and Puha will be hoping to upset Noppert and Van den Bergh respectively.
Following Friday morning’s opening session, the New Zealand Darts Masters concludes on Saturday with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final all played in what promises to be a bumper session of high-quality darts.
|What||New Zealand Darts Masters|
|Where||Globox Arena, Hamilton, New Zealand|
|When||From 08:00 Friday 4th August 2023|
|How to watch||bet365 Sports Live Streaming, PDCTV|
Aspinall will be on the crest of a wave after a fantastic World Matchplay victory last month,
The Asp played some superb darts in Blackpool and, while the former UK Open winner certainly had the class to lift the trophy at the Winter Gardens, it didn't look that likely earlier in the season.
Aspinall was beaten in the first round of the Masters, before his World Championship title tilt was ended in the third round by Josh Rock.
The Stockpot man then had some difficulties with his throwing arm, but the 32-year-old returned to his brilliant best in Blackpool and took down the second PDC major of his career.
The Asp gets his charge at the New Zealand Darts Masters trophy underway against Kayden Milne, who beat Fallon Sherrock in the first round of this event last year, but was then thumped 6-0 by Smith in the quarter-finals.
Price faces Whitlock in his opening contest and it looks anything but a straight-forward tie for the Iceman.
Whitlock may not be the consistent force of old, but the Australian is still an extremely capable performer when on-song, as he showed when one part of the Aussie 2022 World Cup-winning team alongside Heta.
There’s bound to be a lively New Zealand crowd in attendance on Friday and, with Price unlikely to be able to call on their support, this looks anything but a simple opening assignment for the Welshman.
Kiwi thrower Robb is a talented performer and Big Rig looks to have the scoring power to trouble Noppert.
Robb is the most frequent maximum hitter on the New Zealand Pro Tour and the 34-year-old would certainly be of interest on the most 180s market.
An overall average of 84.29 across 66 matches needs work, but Robb has upped his game on the big stage in the past, putting in a 93.33 against Price in this event last year, and the home Hamilton crowd will once again be in full voice.
Noppert got his breakthrough win in last season’s UK Open, but it has been a pretty quiet time for the Dutchman since and it’s not hard to think that the Freeze could be left out in the cold in Hamilton.
Puha is a prolific winner on the New Zealand Pro Tour and is the standout performer in terms of averages.
The Wellington arrowsmith is putting up numbers of 86.42 across 62 matches this year and that can be bettered in a higher-level contest.
Puha has recorded figures of 93.13 in a World Series event previously and that sort of effort could trouble first-round opponent Van den Bergh.
The DreamMaker is a seriously talented performer, but the 29-year-old has won only six matches in his last four World Series events and the Belgian could only manage a second-round run in the World Matchplay last month.