2015 Betway Premier League Darts

The 2015 Premier League Darts gets under way in Leeds on Thursday night and here is a look at the ten players involved.

This year’s competitive field sees two players making their Premier League debuts in Stephen Bunting, who won PDC Newcomer of 2014, and Belgian Kim Huybrechts.

The players to miss out having played last year are Simon Whitlock, Robert Thornton and Wes Newton, while this year’s event also sees the return of ‘The Machine’, James Wade.

The 2015 Betway Premier League Darts players. Courtesy of PDC.tv

The 2015 Betway Premier League Darts players. Courtesy of PDC.tv

Format

The tournament uses the same format as last year, seeing the bottom two eliminated after Week 9. Then the remaining eight players will fight for the four play-off positions.

Matches in the Group Stage are best of 12 legs, which can see players win ‘first to seven’ or draw 6-6. Two points are awarded for a win and one for a draw. If players are level on points in the league standings, reference is made to which has the better leg difference.

The four that reach the play-offs will meet at the O2 Arena on Thursday May 21 for both the semi-finals and final.

THE PLAYERS


Michael van Gerwen
Age: 25
Nickname: Mighty Mike
Country: Netherlands
Ranking: 1
Last year’s performance: Runner-up
Honours: 2014 World Champion, two-time World Grand Prix Winner & 2013 Premier League Winner

‘Mighty Mike’ will be looking to regain his crown after losing it to fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld in last year’s final.

MVG was a semi-finalist in the World Championship at the turn of the year, losing out to eventual winner Gary Anderson. But he showed again what a dangerous player he is by winning the Unibet Masters trophy in Milton Keynes, defeating van Barneveld 11-6 in the final.

Phil Taylor
Age: 54
Nickname: The Power
Country: England
Ranking: 2
Last year’s performance: Semi-Finalist
Honours: 16-time World Champion, Six-time Premier League winner and the winner of 45 major ranking events

The most decorated player in the sport’s history, Taylor has won pretty much every trophy going and the desire for victory is still very much there.

Taylor was the beaten finalist in this year’s World Championships at Alexandra Palace, where he threw a three-dart average of over 100. Arguably over this format Taylor is at his best as he’s hard to peg back when he gets the lead. One worry will be what time he is on-stage, as he has previously admitted that the later the match, the more impact impact upon his performance.

His most recent tournament, the Unibet Masters, saw him knocked out in the opening round by Terry Jenkins. Personal issues have overshadowed him recently, but his class and professionalism should still come to the fore here.


Gary Anderson
Age: 44
Nickname: The Flying Scotsman
Country: Scotland
Ranking: 3
Last year’s performance: Semi-Finalist
Honours: 2015 World Champion & 2011 Premier League Winner

The Scotsman is flying of late. He won the Players Championships at the end of November and carried that form forward throughout the World Championship where he was the deserved winner.

On his route to the final he beat Peter Wright and Michael van Gerwen before taking the scalp of Phil Taylor.
However, prior to the Unibet Masters, 24 days after his World Championship success, he admitted he had struggled to find time to continue with his practice and he was beaten in the semi-final by runner-up Raymond van Barneveld.

Gary Anderson: Celebrating with the Sid Waddell trophy

Gary Anderson: Celebrating with the Sid Waddell trophy. Courtesy of Action Images

Adrian Lewis
Age: 30
Nickname: Jackpot
Country: England
Ranking: 4
Last year’s performance: Sixth
Honours: Two-time World Champion & UK Open Winner 2014

From the ‘Home of Darts’, Stoke thrower Lewis is a bit of an enigma.  When things are going his way he plays well, but in the face of things going against him, he seems to get frustrated. He’s been largely off the boil in the last two seasons after winning his second world crown.

Still only 30, we are all hoping to see the return of the Lewis of old and possibly more – that could see him win a few more majors, and even more world titles.

He has hit seven career nine-darters and there will be more. In full flow he is a joy to watch.


Peter Wright
Age: 44
Nickname: Snake Bite
Country: Scotland
Ranking: 5
Last year’s performance: Fifth
Honours: World Championship Runner-up 2014

Known for his colourful hairstyles and clothes, Wright has let his darts do the talking in more recent times.

Wright is a player of promise who disappointed last season by only managing to get his hands on the European Darts Open. He is a consistent thrower and scorer, but has struggled when up against the very cream in a vintage era for darts.

He was defeated in the quarter-finals of both the World Championship and Unibet Masters, but should be in contention for this event where he narrowly missed out on the semi-finals in last year’s campaign having finished fifth.

Peter Wright: Will the Snake have bite? Courtesy of Getty Images

Peter Wright: Will the Snake have bite? Courtesy of Getty Images


James Wade
Age: 31
Nickname: The Machine
Country: England
Ranking: 5
Last year’s performance: N/A
Honours: 2009 Premier League Winner, Five time Major Winner

James Wade has had well documented problems away from the oche, so it was good to see him back to his best when winning last year’s Masters after fighting back from 9-2 down to beat Mervyn King 11-10.

This time around he lost in the quarter-finals to Gary Anderson despite averaging almost 97. He is a heavy scorer on form and a reliable finisher on double top or double 10.

He was knocked out of the World Championship by Stephen Bunting, but faced the trickiest of routes if he was going to reach the final. This will be a test for The Machine, but he can reach at the least the semi-finals if playing at his optimum.


Dave Chisnall
Age: 34
Nickname: Chizzy
Country: England
Ranking: 9
Last year’s performance: 7th.
Honours: Grand Slam of Darts, World Grand Prix & BDO World Championship Runner-up

Unfortunately for Chisnall, in the two PDC major finals he has reached he has had to face an on-form Phil Taylor on both occasions.

In the World Championship he was one of the players to be shocked by upcoming Dutch star Benito van de Pas.

The same can be said about the Masters, which saw him knocked out in the first round by Michael van Gerwen in a deciding leg. Some Chisnall stats from that match: 108 average, 13 180s and 69 per cent checkout success – and yet somehow he managed to lose!

The man from St Helens is a prolific hitter of 180s and is certainly a crowd favourite.


Raymond van Barneveld
Age: 47
Nickname: Barney
Country: Netherlands
Ranking: 10
Last year’s performance: Winner
Honours: Five time World Champion, 2014 Premier League Winner & Six-time Major winner

The former postman delivered in the Premier League last year when going all the way in the final, after finishing second in the group stages.

In the World Championship he was a beaten semi-finalist and then he was defeated in the final of the Masters by fellow Dutchman Michael van Gerwen.

During the World Championship he played some sensational darts, especially in pulling off victory over Adrian Lewis in the last 16, and his A Game remains a formidable one.

Van Barneveld: 2014 Premier League champion. courtesy of Getty Images

Van Barneveld: 2014 Premier League champion. courtesy of Getty Images.


Kim Huybrechts
Age: 29
Nickname: The Hurricane
Country: Belgium
Ranking: 17
Last year’s performance: N/A
Honours: World Cup of Darts Finalist

Huybrechts becomes the first Belgian to compete in the Premier League and his inclusion, courtesy of a PDC wildcard, perhaps raised a few eyebrows.

He was a Grand Slam of Darts semi-finalist last year, but is still searching for his first major title.

The Belgian made the last 16 of the World Championships but failed to win a ranking event, making him a surprise inclusion ahead of Robert Thornton. Huybrechts is a steady, consistent player who will win a few matches but probably not enough to escape elimination in week nine.


Stephen Bunting
Age: 29
Nickname: The Bullet
Country: England
Ranking: 24
Last year’s performance: N/A
Honours: BDO World Champion 2014

The Bullet won the 2014 BDO World Championship title at Frimley Green and made the switch to the PDC soon afterwards. In his first weekend of competition, the St Helens player won a UK Open qualifier.

He reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships and continues to make an impact.

He will be using the lightest darts in the Premier League, at less than 12g. Unusually, they come in at different weights too – his first being 11.4g, the middle one 11.6g and the third being 11.8g.

Bunting has a good head-to-head record against a couple of the players in this line-up and could well be the surprise package in this highly competitive field.

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