Draw for inaugural Australian Open confirmed
The draw for the inaugural Australian Open competition has been made and we now know who will be taking to the stage over the next three days in Moama, New South Wales.
The tournament has the same format as the old Finder Masters competition, with an opening round-robin phase comprising eight groups of three players in the men’s event. The top player in each group then proceeds to the quarter-finals, with the competition then taking on a traditional knockout format. The ladies competition has two groups of three, with the top two in each progressing to the semi-finals.
Organised in conjunction with the World Darts Federation (WDF), there is a guaranteed prize post of $70,000 AUS for the two competitions, split 50,000-20,000 between the men’s and ladies events.
Scott Mitchell and Jim Williams, the two top-ranked players with the WDF at the time of the cut-off, are the standout names in the men’s field, which also includes some of the best players from across Australia.
Dorset’s Mitchell lines up in Group A alongside Joshua Townsend, winner of the ACT regional qualifier, and Roderick Hughes, who successfully came through the first of four ‘last chance’ qualifiers before the event. Townsend reached the quarter-finals at the Australian Grand Masters last month and has also got to one semi-final on the PDC-affiliated DPA Pro Tour in 2019, whilst this is the first big event in the career of Western Australia’s Hughes.
Williams, meanwhile, is joined in Group H by the Tasmanian qualifier Brad Thorp and Stuart Coburn, who came through the second ‘last chance’ qualifier on Tuesday. Thorp has also been a regular on the DPA circuit this year, reaching one semi-final and one quarter-final, while Coburn has had success in the BDO in 2019, reaching three quarter-finals and one semi in Australian ranking events.
As with many tournaments like this, there are groups that stand out more than others as potential ‘groups of death’ and that is the case here with Groups D and F.
Group D pits 2019 Lakeside qualifier and winner of four BDO ranking titles Mal Cuming against Gordon-Glen Mathers and Laurie Loch. Loch came through the third ‘last chance’ qualifier by defeating Ricky Pickett and he has shown consistency to reach the last 16 in seven DPA events in 2019. Mathers earned his spot at the competition by winning the Sunshine State Classic in Brisbane back in May and the former PDC World Championship qualifier has won two DPA events this year, making him a dark horse in the event.
Damon Heta currently has a sizable lead at the top of the DPA rankings having won five events already in 2019 and he is in Group F with Peter Machin and Mick Mullaney. Southern Australia’s Machin is a well-known face to fans of the BDO having won the 2017 World Darts Trophy and the clash between him and Heta is sure to produce fireworks. For his part, Mullaney is a former Australia international who reached the last 32 of the WDF World Cup singles in 2011.
Australian Grand Masters winner Aaron Morrison is in Group B alongside England’s David Platt and Brandon Weening, son of seven-time Lakeside qualifier and Australian darts icon Wayne Weening, whilst Group C pits form player Jeremy Fagg against the Kiwi thrower Mick Lacey and Gerry Starr.
The top ranked Australian within the BDO system, Justin Thompson, is in Group E with the South Australian qualifier Glen Kennedy and 2018 North Queensland Classic winner John Kitchin. Group G will see Mitchell Clegg, who famously became the youngest-ever player to qualify for the PDC World Championship in 2007, take on Brody Klinge and 2019 Victoria Easter Classic winner Adam Rowe.
In the ladies event there are also two guest players in the shape of four-time Lakeside winner Lisa Ashton and the current BDO Ladies World Champion Mikuru Suzuki.
Ashton is joined in Group A of the ladies competition by the top-ranked Australian female player Tori Kewish and the winner of the second ‘last chance’ ladies qualifier, Barb Smyth. Kewish, the winner of five BDO ranking events this year, actually met Ashton twice in Denmark earlier this year, losing on both occasions, but their clash is sure to be closer this time round with the home crowd on Kewish’s side.
Japan’s Suzuki was drawn in Group B with Lorraine Burn and Lee-Anne Faulkner. Albeit the weaker of the two groups on paper, Suzuki will still be looking to top the group against two experienced Australian throwers. Burn is second in the current Australian female rankings having won the North Queensland Classic last September and reached three BDO semis this year, whilst Tasmania’s Faulkner is a former Australian international.
The opening group games take place on Thursday August 1st at the Moama Bowls Club. Two sessions are scheduled for Friday 2nd, with the final games due to take place on Saturday August 3rd. All the action from this tournament will be live-streamed.