Wayne Mardle is one of the best loved characters in darting history. A five-time World Championship semi-finalist, three-time major finalist and now an ever present Sky Sports commentator, few have a CV quite like Hawaii 5-0-1. Here, he chats to The Boar Sport about his life, career and the upcoming World Grand Slam:
When did you start playing darts? Did you have a natural aptitude straight away?
I was 11, and I suppose I did have an eye for it, my first ever throw was 45, not bad that. I didn’t improve upon that very much. Haha.
Who is your darting idol? Who is your all-time favourite sportsperson outside of darts?
My darting idol, Eric Bristow. He provided the show, he looked and acted better than the rest. My dad was the reason I started playing so he’s my darting idol too. He was the one that allowed me to become a professional, taking me all around the county as a teenager, leaning a lot about the game, and myself.
Favourite sportsman away from Darts, Michael Johnson the athlete. Unconventional but the best by far.
My attitude against Kirk Shepherd was disgusting. I’ve never been so cocky in my career; I got what I deserved and that was beaten.
What’s the story behind your Hawaiian shirts?
A friend of mine purchased one whilst we were in Las Vegas on 1999 and I told him I’d buy the same and wear it for the upcoming BDO World Championships. He thought I wouldn’t go through with it because at the time nearly every player wore black or navy. The rest is history, as they say.
Has anyone ever had a better walk-on in world darts than you?
No, some have tried but they seem a bit contrived. I had to jump around like a loon to lose the nerves and adrenaline that was built up, it’d release the stress from my body, I’d feel freer after a walk on.
What was the biggest problem you faced during your career?
Phil Taylor. He stopped me winning a major, maybe more. All three major finals I played in he was there to thwart me. DAMN YOU TAYLOR. HAHA.
I have to ask, were your highest and lowest days in darts the 29th and 30th December 2007? What was the time between the games like?
To be honest, beating Phil was great but I didn’t get as carried away as everyone else seemed to. It was only a quarter final, don’t forget reaching a world semi-final was nothing new for me.
At that time Phil wasn’t beaten before the final so this was a shock result in the world of darts, even though I didn’t see it that way.
After the game I did my press and interviews as normal. Friends and family were talking like I’d just become world champ so I had to calm them down.
In that semi-final I played Kirk Shepherd. This isn’t meant to sound disrespectful, if it does there’s nothing I can do about that, I thought I’d just have to turn up, toe the oche, play a little and I’d be in the final the next day.
My attitude was disgusting. I’ve never been so cocky in my career; I got what I deserved and that was beaten.
You might be surprised to hear this, but the 2006 World Championships hurt me more. I was in my opinion the only one willing to stand up to Phil back then, I had him puffing and panting nearly all the way through the match, I just couldn’t finish him off. I lost 6-5 in that match, another semi-finals defeat.
How did you find the transition from playing into commentary?
Easy, I thought. I have a love for the game and when I’m not playing I love talking about it.
My first day at “work” was with Sid Waddell and John Gwynne, two broadcasting legends, I couldn’t go wrong could I.
Who has been your favourite commentary partner to work with?
No comment. They’re all my friends and I’d like to keep it that way.
What’s the best match you’ve ever played in? What’s the best you’ve ever commentated on?
Best match I’ve ever played in, beating Raymond van Barneveld in the Dutch Open in 99, he had 4000 noisy countrymen supporting him but I felt unfazed and I played one of the best games of my career. I beat him obviously.
Adrian Lewis V Phil Taylor, 2013 Grand Slam Semi Final was the best match I’ve ever witnessed from the commentary box. Adrian lost 16-9 with 110.99 average. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Laughable.
How has Barry Hearn changed darts?
He’s injected money and promoted it like no one before him.
The players, the officials, the fans and Barry Hearn are all part of the workings that make this sport what it is today.
You were always one for entertaining the fans. How much more are PDC performances than mere sporting events?
Look, sport is entertainment. We need characters on that stage entertaining the masses that pay good money to watch them, whether it be in person or via the TV.
If a team plays defensively week after week people won’t watch them because it’s boring, darts is the same, watching a man throw metal at a colourful disc just under 8ft away isn’t the entertainment, it’s the players and the drama of it all that makes it so watchable.
I’m hoping Andy Fordham plays well, he’ll do well to qualify for the next stage. It’s a big ask after being away for the best part of 10 years.
Although there seems to be a conveyor belt of exciting talent coming through, is there anything more you feel can be done to recruit and develop young players?
I don’t. The PDC are doing all they can to nurture the future World champs.
Who should we watch out for in the Grand Slam?
Michael van Gerwen and Phil are the men to beat in my view but James is playing well.
Andy Fordham has performed a sporting miracle. What are his chances and could we see the Power/Viking match-up we’re all hoping for?
Well done Andy, an amazing effort.
I’m hoping Andy plays well, he’ll do well to qualify for the next stage. It’s a big ask after being away for the best part of 10 years.
Which of the BDO players could go the furthest in the tournament?
Martin Adams. He’s still a world class player.
Finally, who’s your favourite to be Grand Slam 2015 Champ?
The favourite is Michael Van Gerwen.
Wade for me though, Major number eight, possibly.
The World Grand Slam of Darts kicks off at 1pm, Saturday 7th November on Sky Sports.