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PDC: Wright closes Ally Pally party in style

The party's over, the doors have closed, silence has returned to Alexandra Palace, and darts fans the length and breadth of the land can breathe once again.

They will be revelling in the memories of 19 days of pulsating sporting theatre which was brought to a close on Monday night when Scotland's Peter Wright lifted the Sid Waddell Trophy for the second time.

Ninety-six players had gone to post at the 2022 PDC World Darts Championship, all with dreams of being in a position to relieve world No.1 Gerwyn Price of his crown and by the end there was just one man standing – and few would begrudge Wright his success.

Wright topples nearly-man Smith

The pre-tournament 7/1 shot had impressed through the early rounds and then been tested like never before from the last eight onwards and, at the very end, when it really mattered, he showed a champion's resolve.

Michael Smith, the man who simply won't be king, was 5-4 up and flying in Sunday's final, producing a 180s masterclass and he had Wright on the ropes.

But Snakebite simply dug deeper than ever into his resources and delivered, under the most intense pressure, some of his greatest darts, reeling off nine of the last ten legs to turn that 5-4 deficit into a 7-5 triumph.

Ally Pally erupted to acclaim a true warrior while Smith wiped away the tears at the back of the stage, lamenting another one that got away.

It was a fitting conclusion to a magnificent tournament which saw crowds back, records broken, more stars emerge and a worthy winner – and now all eyes are on 2022 and, as Wright himself would say, let's get this party started!

Can The Queen of the Palace earn Premier League approval?

First up is the Premier League, the ten-player invitational, which runs from February to May.

In normal times the field for the event would have been announced on World Championship final night, but that has been delayed this year.

What we do know is that the world's top four – Price, Wright, Michael van Gerwen and James Wade – are automatic picks while Jonny Clayton, as defending champion, is guaranteed a place.

So too will be Smith, up to five in the world after his near-miss on Monday.

But the PDC and Sky Sports have yet to reach agreement on the rest of the field with Fallon Sherrock likely to be at the heart of most of the conversations.

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On the face of it, offering a place to the world No.90 would seem complete folly, but of course Sherrock is bigger than a world ranking.

Sky would dearly love to have her in the field because the 'Queen of the Palace' is box office but it would look a questionable step if she goes to Q-School at the end of January, flops, and is then invited to tour the country as an elite Premier League star.

Rydz to cause a Riot as young guns gather for '22 assault

Other youngsters who might genuinely be in Premier League consideration are Callan Rydz and Luke Humphries after reaching the quarter-finals at the Palace, the third time 26-year-old Humphries has done that.

He has also twice played in the Premier League as a contender – he drew 6-6 with Price in 2019 and beat Gary Anderson 7-5 in 2020 – and has climbed to No.19 in the world.

Rydz, the 23-year-old from Newcastle, enjoyed a simply outstanding competition with a trio of whitewashes and a phenomenal display against Wright in the quarter-finals, a match he controlled before being edged out 5-4. He finished with a tournament average of over 97 and looks like the real deal.

Rydz and Humphries are also very much in the conversation for next year's worlds.
Rydz was a 150/1 shot going into this year's event – bet365 rate him a 33/1 shot for next winter's renewal, shorter interestingly than Humphries at 40/1.

The betting is inevitably headed by the Big Four – Price at 4/1, MvG 9/2, Wright at 6/1 and Clayton at 7/1 – though Smith has been installed at 12/1 which will look attractive if he can overcome this latest setback.

Young guns and old hands

There are other youngsters making serious strides, one or two of whom made headlines at the Palace, though bet365 reckon their time is yet to come.

Willie Borland, for example, who produced one of three nine-darters and looks super classy, is available at 250/1 while Bradley Brooks, who Borland beat on that famous night before Christmas, is twice that at 500/1. And the 21-year-old had looked impressive at the Grand Slam as well.

Sherrock, incidentally, has been chalked up at 200/1 for the 2023 Worlds, the same price as Raymond van Barneveld, Mensur Suljovic and Simon Whitlock, three superstars who are very much on the decline according to the odds.

Power goes for glory in Circus Tavern treat

This year won't be all about the game's rising stars, however. There's also the small matter of the first World Seniors Darts Championship, to be staged at the sport's former spiritual home, Circus Tavern in Purfleet.

Twenty-four of the game's greats are going to post, headed by the formidable presence of one Phil 'The Power' Taylor, collector of PDC titles on an industrial scale and now seeking to hoover up the first serious major competed by the old guard.

Lined up against the 16-time world champ are the likes of Martin Adams, John Lowe, John Part, Bob Anderson and a string of other household names from darting's recent, and not-so-recent past, with the fun and games at The Tavern running from 3rd-6th February.

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