Darts hitting mark in Pacific as players gear up for regional championships

On the back of the growing popularity of darts around the world, the sport is gaining traction in the Pacific.

In Vanuatu, in particular, budding throwers are keen to follow in the footsteps of world champion Michael Smith and world number one Michael van Gerwen.

The South Pacific Darts championship will take place in Tonga from Wednesday with female and male competitions.

The semi-finals and finals will be held on Thursday and Friday.

The championship was postponed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Port Vila Darts Association formed five years ago and has become the central organisation for the sport in the South Pacific.

The association hosted darts legend Phil 'The Power' Taylor, who has won the world title 16 times, in 2018, and former top professional Jamie 'Jabba' Caven last December to play and coach the Vanuatu team.

The association's president Stu McEwen said there was considerable interest in Vanuatu during the country's Covid-19 related border restrictions.

"Vanuatu's borders were shut and there wasn't a lot to do so people were looking for things to do and so they took up darts. We ended up increasing a whole local division so that was eight extra teams in Vanuatu."

Six countries will be competing against each other this week, with Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, the Cook Islands, and Niue joining host nation Tonga.

McEwen said the South Pacific Championship is expected to grow for its next event in two years time.

He said more teams are expected to join the competition making up a total of nine country teams.

"We have an application from New Caledonia to join the association and we are also talking about including an indigenous Māori team and an indigenous Aboriginal team from Australia in the next one. That would make nine teams all together."

A meeting will be held on Sunday after the championship to decide where the next tournament will be held.

McEwen said he hopes that darts will be recognised as a sport in the Pacific Games, as he predicts the sport will eventually be recognised as an official Olympic sport.

It's estimated that about 50 million play darts around people in the world.