The West

It s party time as zany mob darts around
Commonwealth gold medalist Kim Mickle with world dart players Phil Taylor 16 time world champion, Australian Simon Whitlock and Peter Wright at the launch of Perth Dart Masters. Picture Dione Davidson/The West Australian

The players call it the "best party in town".

With characters like Phil "The Power" Taylor, Simon "The Wizard" Whitlock and Peter "Snakebite" Wright entertaining a beer-swilling crowd of outlandishly dressed fans, it's not hard to see why.

Welcome to the wacky world of professional darts, where pageant-styled women blow kisses and encourage supporters to sing along to the blaring music as the best players on the planet aim for the championship.

The 2014 World Series of Darts has rolled into town this week for the inaugural Perth Darts Masters, to be held at HBF (Challenge) Stadium from Friday to Sunday.

The 16-player tournament will feature eight Professional Darts Corporation stars and eight Australian qualifiers competing in a knockout format.

The draw for the first round will be made today.

Sixteen-times world champion Taylor and reigning champion "Mighty" Michael van Gerwen loom as the players to beat in a tight field.

But Australian favourite Whitlock, who enters the venue to the sound of Men At Work's Down Under at full volume, was counting on the local crowd to get behind him.

"I tell you what, it's better having them with you than against," Whitlock said.

Wright, who sports one of world sport's great mohawks and a pair of flashy pants, was expecting a tight competition among some of the world's top players.

He was also looking forward to big things from the Perth fans.

Saturday's session is already sold out but tickets are available for Friday and Sunday.

"I don't know how some of them do it in these costumes because some of the venues are so hot," Wright said.

"I've seen chickens - actual chickens - bananas and Oompa Loompas. There's some really crazy stuff. Even some people dressed as me.

"It's all down to them, that's why I dress up. Seeing as they can dress up, why can't I."

British-born Australian Paul Nicholson said the professionalism in darts had improved dramatically over the past 20 years, but the game was wary of respecting its knockabout roots.

"I don't think we should take the element of the pub away from the game because that's where it started," Nicholson said.

"We've done an extremely good job of bringing it into the public eye, not just with the professionalism and the skill that we've brought to the game over the past 10 to 20 years, but the fans have brought the party to the viewers.

"We want to entertain them as best we can."

The West Australian

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