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Darts: Damon Heta heads Australian World Championship challenge

The 2024 PDC World Darts Championships get underway on Saturday 16th December and three Australians will be bidding to go all the way at the Ally Pally and succeed Michael Smith as world champion.

In truth, tenth seed Damon Heta is the only Aussie with a realistic chance to challenge for the title, with Simon Whitlock and Darren Penhall the other darters flying the flag for Australia.

And "The Heat" is out at 76.00 in the outright market, so it is clear that an Australian triumph is very much a long shot.

WhatPDC World Darts Championship
WhereAlexandra Palace, London, England
WhenSaturday 16th December - Thursday 4th January 2024
How to watchFoxtel
OddsLuke Humphries 4.33, Michael van Gerwen 5.00, Gerwyn Price 5.50, Michael Smith 11.00

Heta aiming to bring the Heat

Heta has won a world title, linking up with Whitlock to lead Australia to World Cup of Darts glory in 2022, and he will be desperate to make a big impact on an individual basis at Ally Pally.

The 36-year-old may not have made it past the third round at the World Championship so far, but he has had some confidence-building results in recent weeks.

Having reached the last eight of the World Matchplay back in July, Heta matched those efforts at the Grand Slam of Darts and the Players Championship Finals in November.

He even took out Van Gerwen 10-7 in the last-16 of the Grand Slam before falling to Rob Cross, while at the Players Championship his progress was haled by a 10-6 loss to Ryan Joyce.

That win over Van Gerwen will certainly be something to draw upon, with Heta opening up at Ally Pally in round two, where he will face the winner of the match between Martin Lukeman and New Zealander Haupai Puha.

The problem for Heta is that he has been placed in a tough quarter of the draw which also features Stephen Bunting, Dimitri Van den Bergh, seventh seed Danny Noppert and three-time champion Van Gerwen.

To progress to the latter stages, Heta will simply have to produce his best to emerge from such a high-quality part of the draw.

Whitlock and Penhall complete Aussie group

While Heta enters the tournament in round two, both Whitlock and Penhall start in the opening round, with the former holding the "distinction" of being the only player to have lost in the finals of both the BDO and PDC World Championships and never claimed either title.

His BDO loss came back in 2008 when he was beaten 7-5 by Mark Webster, while two years later he was defeated 7-3 by Phil Taylor in the PDC final.

His recent World Championship form is nothing to write home about, with Whitlock having reached the fourth round just once in his last nine efforts.

He opens up against Paolo Nebrida of the Philippines and is a heavy 1.04 favourite to set up a second-round showdown with two-time world champion Gary Anderson.

Penhall, meanwhile, will be making his World Championship debut thanks to his efforts on the DPA Pro Tour and the 2.62 outsider has been drawn to face 1.50 Jules van Dongen in his opener, with 14th seed Joe Cullen awaiting the winner.

David remains the lone champion

While Whitlock has reached two world finals, Tony David remains the only Aussie to have captured either the BDO or the PDC World Championship title.

David’s moment of triumph came back in 2002, when he saw off Ritchie Davies, Marko Pusa and Bob Taylor on his way to the semi-finals, where he won a high-quality thriller 5-4 against Martin Adams.

The final saw him take on Mervyn King and the Aussie held his nerve to prevail 6-4 against the Englishman, who suffered the first of two BDO World Championship final defeats.

David would reach the quarter-finals 12 months later before being beaten by Davies, while three further campaigns all ended in the first round.

Health problems then curtailed his career and Australia is still waiting for a second thrower to step up to the oche and land the biggest prize in the game.

This time around, Heta is the only serious candidate to bid for the Ally Pally crown.

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