Tag Archives: Wayne Jones

The Challenge Tour 2019, A Feast for Darts Fans.

If you’re a serious, perhaps even an old school, darts fan then you should follow the PDC Challenge Tour in 2019.  The PDC’s equivalent of The Championship retains many of the advantages of the Pro Tour, such as great playing conditions that are constant for every event, efficient and consistent organisation (and officialdom) as well as, thanks to DartsConnect.com, excellent real-time playing coverage and statistical / data availability.

challenge tour logo

Sure, there are a few drawbacks, limited spectator/guest space and no streaming (yet?) being the major ones. But if you like open, regular, competitive and less predictable darts, often of very high standards, this is the place.

Why it Matters.

Challenge Tour (CT) weekends have been of increasing importance, and standard, over the last few years and it appears they will continue to be so. The BDO’s decision to allow players to attend Q School without consequence lead to quite a few additional big names, and high-quality players, now being eligible for CT 2019. In addition, the number of former PDC major players, whether slightly past their peak or returning to winning ways, is growing every year as a generational change moves across the Pro Tour.

In its original format, the CT was a decent enough second division for up & coming players or those who had lost their way, combined with a majority of what could be described as journeymen ( & Women) dart players who could enjoy a great weekend’s serious darts for relatively little cost. It has turned into an extension of the Pro-Tour for many who, for one reason or another, narrowly failed to win a Pro Tour Card.

For those who can reach the higher echelons of the CT, after Events 1-4, they will be able to play the qualifier events for the European Tour as well as filling any missing spaces on the Pro Tour itself. The combination of regular highly competitive darts, in a similar environment, decent income and opportunities at the next level, can be highly effective and beneficial.

An Alternative Route to the Top or a Return Path for the Fallen?

Rob CRoss managed to use the CT as a staging post on his fairytale route to winning at every level of the PDC Tour and claiming the World ChampionshipMicheal Barnard demonstrated this very effectively in 2018. After missing out on a tour card  Barnard set about the CT with a vengeance. His two final appearances, & a Qtr final, ensured that he would be at every Euro Tour qualifier for 2018 as well as putting him at the top of the substitute list for the first few Pro Tour events. The £2,300 probably eased any financial worries as well! Thus a more relaxed Barnard reached the last 16 of his first Pro Tour event of the year, qualified for the UK Open and scored a Euro Tour qualification before the next challenge tour weekend was due! Needless to say, he did not stop there. Within weeks Barnard turned into a regular winner of early round money on the Pro Tour, boosted by his CT efforts, and over the season qualified for both the Players Championship Finals and then The World Championship itself. His earnings in this period exceeded £55,000!  The icing on the cake, for Micheal, took the form of an automatic tour card meaning no Q School and a place on the Pro Tour itself for 2019. How he will perform, without the second tier earnings, regular winning habits and camaraderie, is yet to be revealed.

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Micheal Barnard. The Ultimate Challenge Tour Success Story.

Overall the CT is usually about ten points below the main tour, with players averaging around eighty. This, however, includes a small number of players who are in the very early stages of development and thus can produce some very low scores. This type of player no longer features on the highest tour thus Pro Tour averages come from a selected elite group. It may well be that the difference is more like five points than ten when this is taken into account.  There are a very large number of players overall, over 500 are eligible to play, and a very large percentage are of similar ability.  As a result, players such as Wayne Jones and Alan Tabern have found the slightly lower average level useful in re-finding their feet and returning to Pro Tour. The CT even has its yo-yo players such as Mark Frost ( Frosty The Throw Man!) who seemed to be too good for one and not able to progress in the other.

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The Wanderer. Wayne Jones managed to use the Challenge Tour to return to the top level.

Better and Better

2019 promises a change, the experience level of many of the players is remarkably high. There are world champions, runners up, Premier League players as well as hardened semi-pro types from all over the UK and increasingly the rest of the globe! The talent and potential are virtually limitless and I suspect we will see very high-performance levels and possible records being set on a regular basis.

Add to the above the fact that the draw is totally open and fresh for every event, and you have a recipe for a very explosive and entertaining series of tournaments that may well prove better than ever before and a hidden highlight of the PDC. Surely Barry Hearn will not miss the opportunity to promote the PDC’s efforts for long and streaming will be extended to include the CT.

If your a darts fan and love unpredictable, high level and seriously competitive darts then the 2019 CT is not to be missed. Until then snag yourself a guest pass, boot up your laptop or get practising for next years Q School. 

501 or More: Challenge Tour 2017 Events 9-12.

The fourth weekend continued  the rough pattern developed over the previous three in 2017. Strong performances, from the “Yo Yo’s” with the “New Brooms” chipping in again.

Wayne Jones, Andy Smith and Alex Roy for the Yo Yo’s. Jaques, Aspinall and Josh Richardson doing damage in bursts for the new brooms. The leaderboard remains relatively stable but the bunching up behind “The Wanderer” is getting closer.

Pieman Adapts to New Menu!

2011 Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship - Day Eleven

As predicted, Andy Smith’s slow start burst into life this weekend. The Pieman has the skill and persona to thrive on this tour and is beginning to do so. Steady results on Saturday were followed by a strong run to Sunday’s final. Andy’s draw on Sunday was pretty tough and this seemed to pull the best out of him. He has now crashed into the top 16 on the Order of Merit and is likely to rise again during the later stages of the season.

A Fine Double Act! 

Black Country pairing of Nick Fullwell and Ian Jones should be familiar to anyone who plays open events around the midlands. Travelling partners, and friends, the two have been a regular, and winning, fixture for many years. The arrival of Jones on the PDC tour was always likely to result in Fullwell benefiting. This Sunday featured a Semi Final for each of them and you can rest assured it will not be the last. Almost no one associated with darts would begrudge Nick the extra support , and motivation, which Ian can provide. As for “Whippet” now that he has begun to acclimatise, to regular PDC events, his legendary will to win and battling qualities will become familiar to many more.

A Learning Curve?

challenge tour logo

Radaslaw Szaganski and Robert Rickwood have added two more names to the rush of players proving that past performance is not always a current guide. Neither of these two players had performed outstandingly on the Unicorn Challenge Tour previously, despite Rickwood having solid performances this year, yet Robert claimed a victory and Radaslaw a runner’s up spot in events 9 & 10 respectively. Evidence is beginning to build regarding the benefit of patience and exposure to PDC conditions and formats. A look at the Pro Tour Players Championship events of 2017 will confirm that this is applying at all levels.

Ashton Watch

A no-show from Lisa this weekend. This is probably a very sensible action. She must be able to keep her options open for as long as possible. Although she has shown herself to be competitive, on the tour, the other opportunities available to her mean that she has a chance to build her career in any code or gender balanced events. Should she choose to take part in the remaining events or simply play pick and mix for a while she is able to gain income, experience and confidence from the breadth available to her.

Next Generation

Three standout moments from the next younger players this weekend. Nathan Aspinall winning at this level marks another step in his development, due to his slightly unconventional style “The Asp” is underestimated by many. His match playing ability and talent level should gain him more opportunities at all levels in the coming years. The return to form, although too early to tell, of James Hubbard is welcome, he is a very nice young guy who has suffered severely in recent months. Finally Josh Richardson seems to be again making progress. His choices, in terms of event selection and attitude, seem good, together with his dad, and progress is being made.

Feel Good Story.

A few years ago Paul Harvey looked on the verge of a breakthrough into the higher levels of the game. He reached the semi final of the British Open in 2010 and was playing at a very high level through at least the early part of 2011. It is great to see a return to something approaching this form in recent months. Should he reach, or surpass, those previous levels then keep a very close eye on him.

Order of Merit.

Nathan Aspinall

Young Nathan Aspinall playing the role of David to James Wade’s Goliath in 2015

Jones and Dyer are still in the tour card positions but the pack behind is both expanding in numbers and condensing in terms of the differences between their totals. Wayne Jones is unlikely to slip out of the top two. The additional automatic tour card and the next eight places, earning a free Q School entry, are still available. Aspinall, Rickwood have shown that one victory makes a huge difference and others such as Andy Smith and Luke Humphries seem to be gathering momentum for the later part of the season.

All in all a very good advert for the Unicorn Challenge Tour and it’s likely to get even better in the coming weeks.

 

 

 

501 or more: Challenge Tour 2017 Events 5-8

Wins for the old guard, and a next-generation moment, provide the story of this weekend’s four events on the PDC Challenge Tour. Wayne Jones and Aaron Dyer lead the way overall.

Another Unicorn Challenge Tour weekend passes by and in many ways, it’s the same story. Three wins for former Pro Tour players, two for Wayne Jones and one for Mark Dudbridge, with others such as Kev McDine and Mark Frost making finals and semis. Jones is one of the game’s nice guys and a fierce competitor, it is good to see him bouncing back.

One exception to the normal run of events was the excellent win, in event 5, from Ryan Harrington. A number of darting dynasties have, or are being, formed in the last few years. Bobby and Richie George, Rod and Ryan Harrington and the two Alan Taberns are just three examples. In addition, a few of the up and coming generation have relatives who, although not household names, have strong reputations in the amateur game.

Outside the top two, the prize money is being shared around a little more with more new faces claiming Semi and Qtr Final places. Allen Edwards, Charlie Jackson and Luke Humphries all made the last four over the weekend’s events.

Ashton Watch!

Another good weekend for Lisa Ashton (our review of Challenge Tour 1-4 pointed out the reasons for a special interest in her success) making progress in almost every event this weekend. Good wins over tough players resulted in a 5th round appearance in event 8. This last 16 appearance may be the furthest yet achieved by a female player in a non-invitational, PDC Tour event. She is currently sitting at a solid 58 in the rankings.

The Disappeared?

There are a number of players who have flattered to deceive at this or higher levels and are struggling this year. Barry Lynn, who came within a place or two of gaining a tour card last year, seems to be struggling badly. Former PDC New Player of the Year Mark Hylton was a no-show after a very poor start to his season. Steve Maish, Pro Tour event winner, also seems to be fading from view.

League Table 

Wayne Jones now leads the order of merit with nearly £5000, w Aaron Dyer is in the other tour card claiming spot. Lee Evans, Mark Frost, Paul Milford, Alan Tabern, Ryan Harrington, Mark Dudbridge, Kev Dowling and Martin Lukeman make up the rest of the top ten spots. Less than £1000 separates position 20 from a place in the top ten and with more events than ever it could be a very interesting season. Some former “greats”, including Andy “The Pieman” Smith are struggling, to adapt and may come strong later, together with many who have recently proved themselves capable of winning at this level. Whether they can re-group time to make their mark on this years tour will be the deciding factor on whether the story will be “same old, same old” or ” Challenge Tour brings new life to PDC”.