Kyle An­der­son: Darts player.

Kyle An­der­son, 31, darts player Auck­land Darts Mas­ters win­ner 2017, world rank­ing No. 27

The Saturday Paper - - Contents | The Week - Paul Con­nolly

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 ninedarter [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 ninedarter 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.

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