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Grand Slam of Darts: Gerwyn Price retains title and now a worthy challenger to Michael van Gerwen
Last Updated: 18/11/19 12:14pm
When Gerwyn Price lifted the Grand Slam of Darts trophy 12 months ago the fall out and the repercussions were unlike any the sport has seen, but when he left Wolverhampton on Monday he did so with the talk revolving around whether he can challenge for the world No 1 spot.
Of course the Iceman believes he can be the best, what sportsperson would not, he said as much in an exclusive with the Darts Show podcast before the tournament.
But such has been the impact of the man playing professional rugby just five years ago, there are many who think he could take up the mantle of challenging Michael van Gerwen.
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When Price and his bulging biceps let out his trademark 'Come On', punched the air and went on to lift the Grand Slam of Darts trophy with a 16-6 victory over Peter Wright on Sunday night, it was the culmination of a 12-month journey that has has had plenty of highs and lows.
Rewind to November 2018 and the celebration after his controversial win over Gary Anderson was greeted with boos and ended in a matter that took the Darts Regulation Authority some months to resolve.
Price and Anderson were involved in several coming togethers, while the animosity on the stage was visible for all to see. The upshot was a suspended ban and a £20,000 fine, ultimately halved on appeal, having been found by an independent panel to have resorted to gamesmanship.
It's a fall-out that has haunted the Welshman throughout the season, until Sunday when there was redemption. A quite brilliant defence of his maiden PDC televised title ended with him beating Anderson, Van Gerwen and Peter Wright over 24-hours to join an elite band.
Only six other players in defended a PDC televised title, and the lists is illustrious and involved two of the men he beat on the way to glory at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
Having once again declared MVG's No 1 spot his target on the stage with Rod Studd, he reappeared to do his media duties and as the adrenaline began to ease in the press room there was a smile when the question came yet again.
This time there was recognition of Van Gerwen's status at the top of the game, but a steely determination, reaffirmed with his softly spoken South Wales lilt that the Iceman aims to be the very best he can be.
That's no surprise for a man entrenched in sport from such a young age. A competitive edge has been honed in the front rows of rugby union and rugby league and he brings with him a sportsman's focus that is understandable.
That's not to underestimate the will to win of others, just that there skill and talent has been honed in different surroundings to the professional, athletic environments that Price has experienced.
It spills out on the oche, unlike almost any other player and as Wayne Mardle said in commentary he needs the emotion, the adrenaline surge to produce his best. It has been evident he has tried to temper it at times, and Mardle's musings came during the quarter-final win over Anderson where Price was a little more restrained.
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The Darts Show podcast will wrap up the tournament on Tuesday with Colin Lloyd in the studio
Van Gerwen himself is perhaps the only other player is no stranger to a roar of defiance when he takes out a big finish but the brilliant Dutchman had no answer on Sunday afternoon in a contest that had the crowd, the TV audience and the press room entranced.
There are signs the crowd are turning too. Last year the scene was almost gladiatorial as Price was booed to the rafters and lapped up the role as bad guy.
The following year has been tough, as Price told us he never expected a whole year of boos and being cast in the role of the sport's premier villain. It's perhaps the nature of the darts crowd that they want an anti-hero, something very different to the massed ranks of Superman, Batman and Bananaman who populate the stands.
Price says he did not expect the role of pantomime villain to last all season and it's taken it's toll. The occasional comment and post on social media suggest the relentless nature of being booed week-in, week-out have left him experiencing plenty of lows this season.
In truth Price is anything but. Dedicated to his new craft and willing to do the extra, he will never shirk a question, always fulfil his media duties and go beyond when asked. He's been part of a Sky Sports shoot to coincide with the Rainbow Laces campaign activation later this month and spoke to the national media this week as they prepare their December pull outs for the World Championship.
All this while retaining his focus on the successful defence of his title. His success in reaching semi-finals and finals throughout the season mean he has sometimes taken to the stage of being booed and jeered three times in a day, it may be token but it must surely be trying
So it was hard not to raise a smile as Price was joined on stage by his two daughters as the applause rained down on him as well as the ticker tape.
Winner winner!!!!! You deserve this so much Gez! The emotions were high anyway but when the girls walked on the stage I was gone!!! They looked so proud 💙💙🎯🎯🎯🏴🏴🏴🏆🏆🏆 that World number one spot will be yours soon!!!!! pic.twitter.com/7glfp3MPtR— Bethan Jones (@Bethan_Jones89) November 17, 2019
Price has risen to third but in the provisional rankings post Ally Pally he will be second. It may take a while to overhaul Van Gerwen, it may not even be possible given the Dutchman's dominance. But Price has shown himself to be a man in a hurry and a man up for a challenge.
A year is a long time in sport and in darts it's proved to be just that. Price has gone from an outsider to one of the sports very best, he's turned the boos of the crowd into a chorus of 'there's only one Gerwyn Price' - the next 12 months could be even more exciting.
It's now less than a month to go until darts is back on your Sky Sports screen, 16 days of coverage from the PDC World Championship gets underway on Friday, December 13 with the draw on Sky Sports News on Monday November 25