The PDC Premier League, darts ultimate showcase, has finished its group stage for the current season. Ten players started out in February visiting in such cities as Leeds, Newcastle, Aberdeen, Cardiff, Belfast and Rotterdam. With the world’s top four players reaching the semi final stage, this years edition seems to have been split between the sublime and the ordinary.
The extension of the league to 10 players, ensuring an elimination night along the way, has been a mixed blessing. Whilst certainly adding drama to more of the earlier nights, some players have been exposed and struggled. This leads to more dead rubbers and some fans have complained that the whole event therefore seems long winded.
Newcomer Mike Smith could be excused for taking a while to adapt but for Dave Chisnal to finish with the same single victory after nine matches shows a failure to progress. Whilst Robert Thornton was unlucky to fall ill in the early stages and battled back well, to avoid elimination.
The main dramatic element, of this years league, has been the outstanding performances of Michael van Gerwen. Sky’s hype machine has maximised the record averages and even fostered a claim that these are the best darts ever played. Regardless, of your view of these claims, it has certainly carried the narrative of the 2016 edition. Its is perhaps as well, the second group stage produced few surprises and some lacklustre evenings. The final standings leave the top four ranked players; MVG, Gary Anderson, The Power & Adrian Lewis clear of the field as they head to finals night next week, at Londond’s O2 arena.
No surprises, no outsider,no fairytale or comeback story and no outstanding personality/character. The two semi finals will simply showcase phenomenal darting ability. Anderson will need to repeat his recent habit of saving his best for very big occasions. The current World and PL champion seems to be having to play second fiddle, to the Taylor vs MVG story, which may suit him down to the ground. Lewis seems destined to be regarded as a great player who existed in even greater times. To have won two world titles in an era containing Phil Taylor is one thing, to have kept up with Taylor, MVG and Anderson is mightily impressive in itself.
Sky and most of the watching public will want to see a final containing the climax of the Taylor vs MVG rivalry. Should they both reach the final, it will be a chance for Taylor to exert everything he has in the tank over a longer format, possibly too long. Phil has yet again turned a poor spell of form around. New darts, and something new to fight against, have given him some appetite back. During 2016 he has begun to claw away at MVG. So far one draw and one narrow defeat for Phil in the PL indicate he is not far away. Could he return with a bang and defeat MVG in the grand final?
Regardless, of the result, it may well be time for Sky and the PDC to review the premier league for the 2017 season. The repeat of the same story next year, coupled with more outclassed players and dead rubbers, could damage what has so far proven a superb flagship for darts.
Might it be wiser to return the league to eight players? Whilst having a guest match every week with some of the games up and coming stars getting a chance to acclimatise to what is a big leap for some? This could be especially useful with the matches held in countries such as Holland, Belgium and Ireland.
With just a few tweaks, to freshen it a little, the PDC Premier League will keep going from strength to strength.