Darts in New Zealand – the early days
Darts probably arrived in New Zealand in the late 19th century. It was largely a working-class game, usually played in pubs or workingmen’s clubs, often involving wagers on the result. Darts was also played for prizes at fairground side shows. In such forms it was not regarded as a serious sport by newspapers or sports administrators.
The origins of darts
The origins of darts are obscure, although the game may have evolved from archery or javelin throwing. A mid-19th-century English game called puff and dart, where darts were blown through a tube to strike a numbered, circular board may have been a forerunner of modern darts. From the 1860s various dart throwing games were developed in both France and England. The basic design of the dart still used in the 21st century was perfected in the 1880s. The modern ‘clock’ dartboard was developed in 1913, but may have been devised earlier.
The darts craze
The 1930s saw a ‘darts craze’ that spread from the United Kingdom to New Zealand. Darts went from being the pub sport of working-class men to being a game played by all classes and both genders in many different settings. Dart boards became standard equipment in scout halls, recreation rooms and in many family homes. While in Britain serious darts championships began in the 1920s, in New Zealand darts for many years remained largely a recreational pastime.
The modern game
In the 2000s darts remains a game often played recreationally in pubs and clubs, but it has also become more of an organised sport. The New Zealand Darts Council (NZDC), established in 1955, acts as the governing body for 46 darts clubs across the country. These clubs are based in club rooms set up for darts playing, rather than pubs, and they are open to amateurs of all ages. The NZDC organises an annual New Zealand open, age group championships and the Puma masters tournament. The NZDC is affiliated to the World Darts Federation (WDF) and sends teams to the Asia Pacific Cup and the Darts World Cup.
World Championship darts
In 1978 the British Darts Organisation (BDO) set up a World Professional Darts Championship. In 1992 a group of players set up the Professional Darts Council (PDC) and split away from the BDO. Since 1994 there have been two world championship competitions, one run by the BDO and one by the PDC. New Zealand dart players have played in both competitions, but as of 2012 no New Zealander has advanced beyond the early rounds of the world championships.
The Clubs New Zealand Darts Association (CNZDA) organises major annual North Island, South Island and national tournaments between chartered clubs. The CNZDA has a ranking system aligned with the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC). The wide coverage of the PDC’s premier league darts competitions on sports television has boosted the popularity of darts as a sport in New Zealand.