Paddy Power: Even though you’re reigning world champ, this is your first time competing in the Champions League of Darts. How much are you looking forward to the challenge?
Rob Cross: I can’t wait. It’s the closest tournament to me this year, so that’s really good. I might be even able to stay in my own comfort of my own bed all weekend!
I remember watching it last year and the year before, and the tournament looks fantastic. I’m really looking forward to going and playing it.
It’ll be good coming to Brighton because the crowd’s going to be electric down there. I know a fair few people that are going to come and watch. You get to see the eight best players in the world for the whole weekend. It’s great opportunity to come and watch great darts.
PP: How will the format, playing with three others in a group, affect your approach?
RC: You’re going to have to be fresh because they’re going to be longer days and longer games. I think they’re first to eight, off the top of my head, so they’re going to be a bit longer than usual, and you’re going to have two in a day, which is going to take a bit out of you, but what a great thing to be part of, with more TV coverage as well.
It’s massive having it on the BBC, so everyone will be able to watch.
The more it’s promoted and the bigger it is, the better for everyone, really.
The more people that watch, the more we can drag youth into it and try and get younger players coming in, a new generation of players. I think that’s what we need here in the country.
PP: You’ve won on TV before in amazing fashion. How extra special is it? Talk us through that feeling.
RC: I’m not being funny, but every time you go in, you want to win. With it being so close to my home, and with the Champions League of Darts being the elite – you’re the top eight players in the world – it’s just a great place to test yourself.
I love pushing myself to new limits and getting better.
Darts is getting bigger and better too. We’ve got the World Championships this year, with two women players who are going to come in and have a go, and that’s fantastic for the game, to encourage more participation.
You look at the youth systems coming through now all over the world too. I was in Shanghai recently, darts is getting bigger out there, and there’s a great opportunity in darts now. It’s an actual living.
When I looked at it, when I was 15, you probably had to be top eight in the world to properly earn a living. Now, you could probably be top 50, and it’s only getting bigger.
The PDC and Barry Hearn have obviously done a great job, and they pay me quite well, so I’m very lucky.
PP: Phil Taylor obviously retired last year. How has that affected the circuit, and how has it affected you personally?
RC: I would have liked to get another year with him, really, and play him a little bit more. But a lot of people probably wouldn’t have been so sad to see the back of him because he had a great record against most players. Really, I think if he felt enough was enough – and he’s done enough for the game. The game’s grown so much but probably without Phil it wouldn’t be where it is now.
Maybe it was a good time to leave and enjoy life, to see the world and enjoy his retirement. So I wish him all the best.
PP: You’ll be forever remembered as the last man to beat him in a major final. Has that been a burden to you? How do you view it now?
RC: I don’t think the World Championships has really been a burden at all. Things have changed, and pressures have changed, and people see it in a different light now. They expect a little bit more from me, but realistically, anyone that does anything in the PDC, they take three, four years to get there. I’ve been here for 18 months. I’m still wet behind the ears. So, I’ve got a lot to learn, and that’s what I’ve done this year.
For example, with the Premier League next year, I go into it knowing what’s coming now.
I know how I’m going to feel at times, and I know it’s going to feel more “normal”. I can try to keep myself fresher so I’ll be able to get my performance up more. Learning is what it’s all about at the minute.
PP: A lot of these tournaments, including the Champions League, are first outings for you. How do you prepare for that?
RC: Well, I’ve lost a bit of weight and I’m going to lose more, so my energy levels are good. I’m practising, I’m playing well, and I’m happy with my game at the minute. So, that will only get stronger throughout the year.
I’ve had a lot of different commitments this year, everything’s changed, and I’ve had to think more about my game and how I’m acting and all, and I’ve learned a lot about myself this year.
But I still just love going up there and playing. I love my job, and I can’t wait to play in Brighton.