The Grand Slam sees the PDC and the BDO going head to head and that always leads to a bit of niggle.
Both codes want to get the bragging rights and while the PDC is clearly the best, it didn't go our way last year as the BDO took the spoils in amazing fashion.
Scott Waites came back from 8-0 down to beat James Wade (he must have been 1000/1 on the in-running betting) and they were able to get one over the big boys. That stung the eyes a bit, to be honest.
I can't see that happening this year because the PDC has so many great players on form - Phil Taylor, James Wade and Gary Anderson to name a few - but the rivalry makes this competition especially exciting.
The BDO champion Martin Adams doesn't get invited any more after turning down two invitations in the past, but I get on with the likes of Tony O'Shea and Ted Hankey. There's no animosity there, but there's bragging rights to be had and that's what makes professional sport so thrilling.
Grand Slam of Darts
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After what happened last year, there's a bit of extra spice. We want to make sure one of our boys wins it, but they want to double up and rub our faces in it.
Here's how I see things going in the group stages:
Scott Waites, Mark Walsh, Tony O'Shea, Michael van Gerwen
Scott Waites wouldn't have won a major TV tournament like this unless he was a good player, so look out for the defending champion. Mark Walsh is a solid player, who doesn't make many mistakes, but he has missed a few doubles lately and that could pull him down.
Michael van Gerwen is 11/2 with some bookmakers, but he's my dark horse to win the group because he's been playing really well on the PDC Youth Tour. Then there's Tony O'Shea, who is a great player, but never fulfilled his potential. All four of these players are very evenly matched.
ROD'S CALL: Any of the four could win it, but it wouldn't surprise me if the outsider Van Gerwen came out first or second and I'd like him to do well. I'd also pick O'Shea, who hasn't done too well lately, but I think he may turn up.
Raymond van Barneveld, Dean Winstanley, Ted Hankey, Ian White
I think Barney will look at this group and think the draw has been kind. He should qualify as the group winner because he's playing well. He has got rid of another manager and I've advised him not to get another one because then he can't get angry with people. He seems happier without one.
As for Ted Hankey, he's got one of the best rhythms in the game and if he could get back the form that won him the BDO World Championship then he should move over to the PDC - but you never know which Ted Hankey will turn up because sometimes the crowd get to him. Winstanley was a BDO World Finalist last year and Ian White was a reserve, who replaces the injured Simon Whitlock.
ROD'S CALL: Barney should come through, but it's hard to call the other qualifier. I'll go for Hankey if he lets his darts do the talking, but he mustn't let the crowd get to him.
Gary Anderson, Wayne Jones, Brendan Dolan, Nigel Heydon
Nigel Heydon is a funny player who leans right over when he's throwing, but he's playing really well and as the rank outsider he could be the spoiler in this group. Wayne Jones has been playing really well, especially on the floor, while Brendan Dolan was the runner-up in the World Grand prix; if he brings that sort of form then anything could happen. But you can't look beyond Gary Anderson because when he's on form his scoring ability is incredible. The only thing that beats him is himself when he misses doubles.
ROD'S CALL: I've got to say Gary Anderson will win the group and I'll go for Wayne Jones as the runner-up.
James Wade, Terry Jenkins, Justin Pipe, Dave Chisnall
I'm calling this one the Group of Death because it's unquestionably the hardest. James Wade is a wonderful player and I love to watch him when he's playing well. I saw him win a tournament in Benidorm recently and he was exceptional, so if he turns up in that frame of mind he will take some beating. Terry Jenkins will be the spoiler of the group; I don't think he'll win it, but it wouldn't surprise me if he qualified. As a seven-times runner-up in major tournaments he's got the pedigree, but I think he's spending too much time at exhibitions and he hasn't played well for two or three years.
Justin Pipe has got talent and he's very slow, which puts other people off. In the last eight tour events he's won three, lost two finals and reached two semi-finals, which is up there with Phil Taylor's best form, so you can't take him lightly. I've watched Dave Chisnall all year and he's an exceptional scorer on the treble-20 which makes him tough to beat as well.
ROD'S CALL: This is a flick of a coin. I'll go with James Wade and then Dave Chisnall as runner-up, but it wouldn't surprise me whichever two come from this four.
Phil Taylor, Mervyn King, Steve Beaton, James Hubbard
You can't look beyond Phil Taylor as tournament winner to be honest. People complain that I always pick him to win - but that's because he keeps winning! Mervyn King is playing exceptional darts at the moment after sorting out some problems with his elbows and getting over the grief of losing his father. He's in a good frame of mind now and has been smiling at times, which is dangerous because it means he's playing well and I've seen him throw some great darts lately. Steve Beaton has been playing some of the best darts of his life too.
Youth player James Hubbard isn't going to come through this group and faces a baptism of fire by playing Phil Taylor on his TV debut. I'll have a chat with him before he plays to give him some advice because I want him to get up there and enjoy it. If he plays with no pressure he'll play better.
ROD'S CALL: You can't see anyone but Taylor winning the group and I'd go with King as runner-up - but it could come down to legs difference between him and Beaton.
Wes Newton, Paul Nicholson, Barrie Bates, Magnus Caris
Magnus Caris is an old friend of mine, an experienced player and having come through the qualifiers he is no mug. But there's two players in Wes Newton and Paul Nicholson, who are playing some exceptional darts at the moment. Wes has learned how to play the big stage, while Paul knows how to combine being the "craftyman" with being a darts player. Barrie Bates has had a few problems with arthritis in his hand, so I think he will struggle a little bit.
ROD'S CALL: I don't think Magnus has the firepower on the treble-20 to get through, so Nicholson and Newton should be one and two, either way around.
Mark Webster, Jan Dekker, John Part, Arron Monk
John Part is one of the most experienced players on the circuit and I think he should go through with Mark Webster. Arron Monk is a youngster and has great talent, but he doesn't know how to use that talent at the moment. This tournament should be a great experience for him though. To be honest, I know little about Jan Dekker although a lot of people have told me he's a very good player.
ROD'S CALL: I've got to go with the established players in this group, Mark Webster and John Part, to go through.
Adrian Lewis, Vincent van der Voort, Co Stompe, Martin Phillips
Martin Phillips is definitely the outsider here. He's been going for as long as the game has been going and I remember playing him in the World Masters back in 1991. He's a good player, but I don't think he's got the firepower to live with someone like Adrian Lewis. I really hope Aidy turns up and has a great tournament because he hasn't done himself justice since winning the World Championship. He needs to kickstart his season and get on a run coming into Ally Pally this year. As for the two Dutchmen, Co Stompe has been playing well lately and Vincent van der Voort is capable of exceptional darts.
ROD'S CALL: I'll go for Lewis to win the group and Van der Voort to finish in second.
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William Spratt says...
I will go for. A- Waites and Walsh. B- Barney and Hanky. C- Anderson and Jones D- Wade and Chisnall E- Taylor and Beaton F- Nicholson and Newton G- Webster and Monk H- Lewis and Van der voort.
Posted 13:36 11th November 2011
Paddy O sullivan says...
Hi Rod, Hope you're well and hope Sid will be back with us soon, maybe for Ally Pally. I'll have a pound against your selections & Eric Bristow's with the following- A- Scott Waites & Tony O Shea B- Ray Barnevald & Ted Hankey C- Gary Anderson & Brendan Dolan D- James Wade & Dave Chisnall E- Mr. T & Mervyn King F- Wes Newton & Paul Nicholson G- Mark Webster & Jan Dekker H- Adrian Lewis & Co Stompe PS. You can tell Bristow we can go double or nothing for the Ally Pally! Kind Regards, Paddy' O Sullivan
Posted 13:31 10th November 2011
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