Just before the match finished, professional darts player Michael 'Bully Boy' Smith, who was keeping score, said: "Are we not playing double?"

Fellow pro Simon 'The Wizard' Whitlock replied: "No, we'd be here all day."

They weren't playing and Simon wasn't kidding.

This was me against my boss, Herald editor Murray Kirkness.


Michael and Simon, two of the stars in town for this weekend's Auckland Darts Masters, were our heavily jetlagged trainers.

Michael and I were born in England, Simon and Murray in Australia.

It was a bit like The Ashes, but in a different sport and contested by extremely poor performers.

Darts is hard though.

Pros stand 2.37 metres from the board. The centre of the bullseye is 1.72 metres above the floor.

Although slightly curved, the treble 20 zone – like the other treble zones - is about 3cm wide and 1cm deep.

The bullseye, worth 50 points, is a circle with a diameter of about 1cm.

Try hitting them, three darts at a time, turn after turn. Imagine doing it while thousands of fans chant, cheer and chuck abuse.


"Try to keep everything still and just use the arm," Simon told Murray.

"Try to keep everything still. Just let the arm do the work," Michael told me.

"Your throws aren't too bad actually," Simon told Murray.

"I think he's a ringer. Definite," Simon said of me.

I wasn't. I started okay before fading as I considered the prospect of winning in front of the stars.

We played from 301 down. Michael's question about the double referred to finishing with a double, something customary in competitive darts.

We didn't do that. We really could have been there all day.

Simon, the world number seven, is from Hornsby on the northern edge of the Sydney sprawl.

His parents were "10 pound Poms" and his dad used to play.

"I fell in love with it straight away," he said. "I wasn't too bad but my throw was a bit weird. You want to develop a nice throw. Basically I had a misspent youth after that."

Michael, the world number nine, is from St Helens, between Manchester and Liverpool.

He started playing to relieve the boredom while recuperating from a broken hip sustained in a schoolboy cycle mishap. He threw his first 180 on crutches and later dropped out of a joinery course to focus on darts.

The 27-year-old was the runner-up in this year's Premier League – one of the biggest competitions in a year-round schedule that's relentless for the very best players. The Darts Database website puts his earnings at about $2 million.

Simon, 49, was a brickie. It took him more than a year to throw his first 180. He played for eight hours a day when he was young and still practises for 3-4 before every match.

A former world number three, he was back in the Premier League this year after a lean spell. His career earnings are about $3.5 million.

Murray and I love the darts. We tried hard to follow their advice. As we staggered towards victory, Murray survived a scoreless turn to close it out with a single 15.

But he is my boss. What would you have done?

• World number one Michael van Gerwen and world champion Rob Cross are among the other players in action at the Auckland Darts Masters, starting tonight at the Trusts Arena.