Heta last Aussie standing
Damon Heta is the last Aussie standing at the PDC world darts championship in London. Image by EPA PHOTO
  • darts

‘The Heat’ out to help Aussie darts rise from Ashes

Ian Chadband December 21, 2023

Damon Heta is celebrated on the pro darts circuit as the master walk-on showman, making his way on to the stage at big events by dancing up there as everything from ice hockey goon to alpine skier to rock star with inflatable guitar.

But on Wednesday, as he ponders his next grand introduction at London’s Alexandra Palace, he may be needed to reprise one of his better efforts – that of bespectacled firefighter complete with toy extinguisher.

It would be perfectly fitting for the Perth player who’s trying to rescue Australia’s hopes at the world championships as the last ‘green-and-goldflinger’ standing – and we’re only at the second-round stage.

Simon Whitlock, his weird-bearded buddy and for so long the mainstay of the Aussie darts scene as a two-time former global finalist, is already out and so is Darren Penhall, leaving all the heat on “The Heat’ when Heta meets Englishman Martin Lukeman on Thursday. (Friday AEDT).

No pressure, then – on either Heta’s performance as the ever-improving world No.10 – or on his much-anticipated walk-on routine in this end-of-year Ashes re-enactment.

For when Heta played at the world matchplay championships in the English seaside town of Blackpool in July in the middle of Ashes fever, walking on stage, complete with a baggy green while practising his forward defensives with an inflatable bat, he was met with a cacophony of pantomime boos.

The 36-year-old former roofer just took it on the chin with a grin as the crowd inevitably broke into the English summer refrain of “same old Aussies, always cheating!”

“It’s something I’ve learned to deal with,” smiled Heta. “And, sure enough, I’ve learned to shrug it off with laughter and not not over-engaging with the crowd to get on their wrong side. I think I’ve done myself proud and I’ve definitely learned a lot this year.”

But why the wacky walk-ons? “When I’ve looked back on previous matches I’ve won, I was joking, like doing a little dance here – but on the games I didn’t win, at the big moments, I was just stale and frigid and tried too hard,” he explained. 

Simon Whitlock
 Simon Whitlock, Australia’s number one for many years, teamed up with Heta to win the World Cup. Image by EPA PHOTO 

“So with that bit of a walk on and break out of character, and then getting on stage, I’m not so tense, where every leg, every throw means everything. It’s definitely helped my mental side of the game.”

So what can we expect on Thursday? Disappointingly, Heta tells us he’s calming things down a bit. No Ashes wind-ups here. “So I might do a little something – but nothing too drastic,” he says, having no intention of getting the famed Ally Pally pre-Xmas revellers too worked up.

Anyway, perhaps it’s getting to the point in his career when Heta, one of the most consistent performers on the PDC circuit, needs to be appreciated for his excellence as a player, not for his showmanship, as he’s just cracked the world’s top-10 after less than four years since earning his card.  

He’s seeking to become the first Australian since Whitlock in 2010 to reach a final and the only one since Tony “The Deadly Boomerang” David in the 2002 BDO championships to actually win a world title. 

Between them, Heta and Whitlock lifted the World Cup last year but individual glory has eluded Australians for 21 years.    

“But after only four years, I’m in the top 10 – that’s insane – and I’m really happy with myself,” said Heta, who reckons he and his wife Meghan have made a lot of sacrifices in moving from Australia to base themselves in England to nourish this one-time roofer’s dream of standing on top of the world.

“I just always believe it’s my consistency and the work ethic and everything that I put into it, I don’t leave a stone unturned,” said Heta.

“I’m always on the board practising, always finding new things to do, what’s going to help my game – and I want to be the best.

“I don’t think people realise when I’ve had to do and to overcome and the amount of pressure that is involved. 

“But maybe I’m just one of those guys that doesn’t take all that pressure on. I’m here for a good time and why not? Why take it all too serious? Got to still have a good time, as well as trying to be the best.”