Sport

With a world ranking of 27, Kyle Anderson has hit the bull’s-eye as a professional darts player. By Paul Connolly.
Credit: SUPPLIED

Down to a fine dart: Kyle Anderson, 31, darts player

I’m an Aboriginal boy from Perth and darts is a big thing in my community. Everyone has a dartboard in their garage or wherever. When we go around to see the uncles and aunties or have barbecues or family gatherings, there’d be a dartboard hanging up and everyone would play together. So darts is more than a sport for me, it’s a family thing.

Mum and Dad played darts, my brother [Beau] played darts. The first thing my dad told me was when you play darts you have to learn to count. When you’re throwing for a score you count up, but you also have to count down [from 501] for a finish. My addition, subtraction and multiplying was brilliant at school because of darts. Not so much my algebra.

Our dartboard was in the kitchen. I’d come home and my father would be playing, my brother would be playing, and I’d sit down and watch. I’d get up and get my set of darts and throw. If I got a bad score, Dad would say, “No, you can’t play.” That taught me to try and keep my level up so I could keep playing with them.

Beau and I both played for Australia, a level above Dad, but we don’t talk about that much. Dad says, “I taught you boys everything you know. I can still beat you if I want to.” The old father line. When we started beating Dad he said, “Well, why not take it to the next level and beat everyone else?” That’s when I started taking the game more seriously. I made the Western Australia junior team when I was 11. That was an early turning point for me.

When I was going through high school I barely did any homework and I just practised darts. I thought one day I could play on TV [on the pro tour]. I never thought it would happen but as a kid you have dreams. I was playing four nights a week, loving darts and enjoying it. Then in 2007, I won the WA state singles title. It gave me belief. That year I made my first Australian team. In 2012, I won the Oceanic Masters title.

I got a job on the mines in Rockhampton after that. But when I got made redundant I said to the missus, “Look, there’s a tournament in a couple of weeks [the 2013 Australian Matchplay], I’ve got no income – let me try for it.” So I did and I wound up bloody winning it. First prize was a place in the 2014 World Championships where even a first-round loser got about $8000, one of the best paydays of my life at the time. There’s a lot of money to be made if you’re good enough.

Professional darts is centred around the UK and Europe so in 2014, when I got a pro tour card, I had to leave my wife and son behind in Australia. It’s been the toughest thing. For the first 18 months I was sleeping on couches. Not living rough exactly but not well-off. I didn’t see my wife and boy for six months at a time. It was rough, trying to keep my head switched on when my heart was back in Australia. I’m still living alone in Nottingham now but I’m earning enough to go home for holidays and birthdays and to have them visit me. But there are still long stretches where I don’t see them.

One of my career highlights was at the 2014 Worlds when I got my first televised nine-darter [where the target score of 501 is achieved in nine throws – seven triple 20s, triple 19, double 12]. No one knew me then. I was just some jobber playing on TV. When I got another nine-darter last year, at the European Championships, that’s when everyone said, “This boy’s got the game.” That same year I won the Darts Masters in Auckland. That catapulted me into the world’s top 20. It gave me more confidence, the belief that I can do it.

The crowd is the player’s main priority. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t be onstage, wouldn’t be on TV, wouldn’t be making money. Darts players have big personalities. You’ve got the guys who are obnoxious, guys who are flamboyant. I just get up and do what I have to do; treat it like a job. People say you’re too serious on TV. But I say if you’re playing for that amount of money, you want to be serious. When I’m on TV I just think about my boy and making as much money as I can for him.

This week’s highlights…

Darts: World Darts Championship

Until January 1, 11.30pm (AEDT), Alexandra Palace, London

Cricket: Australia v India, 2nd Test, day 2

Saturday, 10.20am (AWST), Perth Stadium

• Horseracing: Villiers Stakes Day

Saturday, 1st race 1.10pm (AEDT), Royal Randwick, Sydney

Basketball: NBL – Brisbane Bullets v Adelaide 36ers

Saturday, 1.50pm (AEST), Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre

Cricket: WBBL – The Big Weekend

Saturday, 2.20pm (AEDT), and Sunday, 10.10am, Blundstone Arena, Hobart

Soccer: A-League – Adelaide United v Melbourne City

Sunday, 6.30pm (ACDT), Coopers Stadium, Adelaide

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Dec 15, 2018 as "Down to a fine dart". Subscribe here.

Paul Connolly
is a freelance journalist and the editor of the anthology Father Figures.