Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Darts: The Kiwi who won a wildcard to play with the world's best

Cody Harris still confidently dreams of a rags-to-riches story which takes him to the top of the darts world.

And the 30-year-old South Aucklander gets a chance on Friday night to prove his credentials when superstars including world champion Gary Anderson, No 1 Michael van Gerwen and the legendary Phil Taylor take to the Trusts Arena stage in the PDC Auckland Darts Masters.

Harris, who has just represented New Zealand at the World Cup in Germany, won a wild card for the opening night where eight of the world's best face Australasian qualifiers.

The draw is made on Thursday.

This is a David and Goliath mix like no other in professional sport: Taylor, 55, has career earnings of $14 million while Harris is an unemployed odd-job man with five kids and no permanent address.

"I've done warehousing, car grooming, labouring, building - I'd prefer to be working because I have a family to look after," he says from his sister's Manurewa house.

"But you need qualifications and every time I find something, it's not permanent. Often it's only work for a day."

Harris travels the darts world thanks to hangi and raffle fundraisers, and support from family and friends.

"The people who love me give koha - hundreds have supported me," says Harris.
He has darts in the blood. Dad Sonny Harris and mum TeAmo Watene ran a club in the garage of their Otara house when Cody was a kid. And Cody - an A-grader by 11 - had something special to aspire to.

In the early 1980s, the legendary English darts character Eric Bristow took on allcomers at the Wanderers Club in Mangere before a World Cup teams event in Nelson. As the story goes, Sonny turned down a handicap, watched Bristow throw a 180, then beat him over three legs.

Cody's practice routines include Thursday night tournaments at Manurewa's Bellbird Arms Tavern, where 20 people put in $5 for a winner-take-all prize. "Yes, I win the majority but ... they are all getting better and better," says Harris.

Darts Players NZ director Dale Frampton believes Harris has raised the bar and is "without doubt" good enough to make it on the world tour.

"Then his money woes would be over - but we need a backer to step forward for him," says Frampton.

Harris also qualified for the Sydney Darts Masters last year, where he was beaten by the Dutch veteran Raymond van Barneveld. And Harris was in the crowd at last year's Auckland tournament, where England's Adrian Lewis beat van Barneveld in the final.

"It doesn't bother me who I play on Friday - they are all world champions," says Harris.
"I've got a bit of a plan, to go over to Q school [in England]. I still dream of making it. I can be the world champion."

?Ken Moir (Auckland) and Tic Bridge (Australia) have won the initial Swanson qualifiers and will join Harris, Damon Heta (Australia), and Kiwis Warren Parry and Rob Szabo on the Masters stage.

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