Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton have enjoyed a year they will never forget. Having led Wales to a maiden World Cup title last November, the pair have since claimed two of the sport’s most coveted prizes, but they are not finished yet.
Not only are they presiding over a golden era in Welsh darts, they are also inspiring a generation of new talent, and as the duo prepare to defend their crown in Jena this weekend, their determination to create further history is unwavering.
Momentum is certainly on their side. Clayton has added four titles to his growing résumé in 2021, while Price warmed up for this year’s showpiece with victory in the inaugural Hungarian Darts Open in Budapest last weekend.
“The main thing about darts is confidence and I think our confidence is sky-high. That certainly helps,” Price exclusively told Sky Sports.
Camaraderie crucial for Price, Clayton
“We get on like a house on fire off the board, so we will work pretty well together, like we did last year.”
The pairs format provides a compelling dynamic; Price and Clayton’s camaraderie was integral to last year’s triumph, and they were in a jovial mood as they discussed their title ambitions in a Zoom call on Tuesday, albeit from separate locations.
“At the end of the day, whoever you play against, to have the world No 1 and the current world champion by your side, I think I have got a bit of an advantage,” Clayton quipped.
“As a Welshman, to represent your country in any sport is special, but to be winning one of the majors with a good mate and a class act as a player, two ex-rugby boys. Fantastic. Hopefully we can retain it this year.”
Price was already a multiple major winner prior to their World Cup success, but he has since established himself as the premier player in world darts.
Nevertheless, it is Clayton’s emergence that has been the most striking. ‘The Ferret’ was a perennial challenger in major tournaments for many years – now he is a proven winner, and that is an ominous prospect for the rest of this year’s field.
“It has definitely given me belief. To me, Gezzy is a big part of that. Without Gezzy, we wouldn’t have done it. He was fantastic and I was just riding that wave,” Clayton continued.
“As a confidence boost, that World Cup was fantastic and it’s just gone from there, so hopefully it carries on.”
History beckons for defending champions?
The former rugby stars are bidding to become just the third pairing in World Cup history to retain their crown, and they kick off their title defence against Finland on Thursday evening.
The pair’s insatiable desire for silverware will act as sufficient motivation, yet after lifting the trophy in an empty arena in Salzburg, the prospect of prevailing in front of a capacity crowd is a tantalising one.
“You need the whole crowd there; you need the energy. That is what majors are all about. These majors behind closed doors – they are just glorified Pro Tours in my mind,” admitted Price.
“We won it, but there was not really a celebration, we couldn’t show the trophy off, couldn’t celebrate with any fans or anything.
“It would be great now if me and Jonny can go and back it up with the crowd there, and it would be an extra special feeling.”
Price is no stranger to that winning feeling. He has scooped five individual major titles over the last three years – he has achieved his darting destiny at Alexandra Palace, and he has become just the 11th player in PDC history to top the Order of Merit.
However, when it comes to representing your country, it just means more. The emotion, the sense of pride, and ultimately, the sense of responsibility.
Creating a legacy; inspiring future generations
“Obviously becoming world champ is extra special, but to do something for your country and to do it not just for yourself but for another class player in Jonny, it is up in the top two,” Price continued.
“I don’t know if I can say it tops winning the World Championship, but it is probably the second-best achievement that I’ve had in my darting career and probably in my whole career, even through rugby.”
Welsh darts has never been in a better place. Price is the sport’s poster boy as world champion and world No 1, although in Clayton, Wales now boast two major PDC champions.
Former BDO finalist Jim Williams will be the latest addition to the PDC circuit next year after sealing his Tour Card via the Challenge Tour, while Nick Kenny and Lewy Williams are also impressing on the Pro Tour.
Price and Clayton are spearheading the rise of Welsh darts though, and ‘The Iceman’ has underlined his commitment to the next generation by providing them with the opportunity to chase their darting dreams.
The 36-year-old recently set up an academy in his hometown of Markham for aspiring youngsters aged 7-18, as he bids to contribute to the conveyor belt of talent emerging through the ranks.
“I was an amateur, I wasn’t a full-time professional, but to win tournaments that me and Jonny are winning, at the elite level, it is fantastic what we are doing.”
“It is inspiring a lot of younger players, not just younger players but older ones as well. Darts in Wales is in a very good place at the moment.”
Darts is back on your Sky Sports screens in September when the World Cup of Darts takes place in Germany, all four days of action will be live – coverage begins on Thursday, September 9