Qualification wrapped up

The last six positions in the Australian Darts Open 2023 edition were awarded on Tuesday as two more qualifying events for the men and one more for the women were held.

The third men’s qualifier saw two men follow the example of Michael Cassar from the day before and win through having previously lost a qualifying final.

In the last 16 results across the events Laurie Loch (5-0 over Luke Wilson), Dean Gibbs (5-3 over Ryan Gerhardy), Shannon O’Brien (5-2 over Tony Brown), Anton Soc (5-2 over Grant Tooth), Justin Thompson (5-2 over Jordan Ford), Dylan Oaff (5-1 over Tommy Hyland), Stuart Coburn (5-4 over Desean Allen) and Scott Hallett (5-1 over Michael Bajowski) all progressed.

Oaff then went on to end the challenge of Thompson with a 5-1 win that saw him go 3-0 up (including a 13-dart break of throw in the second leg) before Thompson held throw only for Oaff to go on and take the last two legs. O’Brien also went on a three-leg run at the beginning of his match before Soc held throw. Soc would hold throw a second time but was unable to break the O’Brien throw so the match ended 5-2. Loch also went on a three-leg run against Gibbs before the Victorian held throw. Both players held throw before Gibbs broke the Loch throw with a 110 check out in a 15-dart leg where Loch was standing behind him needing tops. Loch would collect that tops in the next leg though and thus broke the Gibbs throw to win 5-3. Coburn would win by the same scoreline but his path to the final was different to the others. Having gone 2-0 up he dropped the next two legs to Hallett. Both players then held throw before Coburn did another time. Hallett was unable to put away the 25 for the eighth leg having missed the bull on his previous visit and Coburn put away the 40 required to give him the final position in the qualifying finals.

Both the qualifying finals would be one sided affairs, and both would end at 5-1. Loch broke the O’Brien throw straight away and then held throw by checking out 100 in leg two. Both players then held throw before Loch broke again. 17 darts later, and a long way in front in the leg, Loch had locked up a position in the main draw that evening.

Oaff and Coburn traded holds of the throw through the opening two legs, Coburn getting his in 14 darts. He then pounced when Oaff left 14 chasing a 106 check out. Coburn check out 52 for the leg win and then threw two consecutive 15 darts legs to take a solid lead, the fourth leg highlighted by a 104 checkout. Coburn then comfortably held throw to take the match 5-1 and also put himself in the draw that evening.

The ladies top 16 results saw victories for Sarah Harrison (4-0 over Melissa Harrison), Seini Vakanofiti (4-0 over Jules Taylor), Melita Ford (4-0 over Nicola Patterson), Maureen Homer (4-1 over Karen Councillor), Janine Cassar (4-0 over Stefanie Loosen), Andrea Hendley (4-2 over Jodie Oakey), Tara Mears (4-0 over Shantell Collings) and Gemma Leonard (4-0 over Lyn Morrison.)

The next round saw Homer dismiss the challenge of Ford with a 4-0 win with Homer not even giving her opponent a crack at a checkout dart (leaving 52 in the final leg was the closest Ford got.) Tara Mears continued to try and gain the extra step she stopped at the previous day when she turned a 0-2 scoreline around to win the last four legs in succession, including a 17 darter on throw in the fifth leg. Vakanofiti won her opening two legs before dropping a break of throw to Harrison (who had busted a shot at four the previous leg.) Both players then spurned multiple darts in the next leg but it was Vakanofiti who took the leg before Harrison broke back once more. She then had the throw to tie things up at 4-4 and force a deciding leg but could not check out 38, 24 or 6 and had to watch as Vakanofiti scored visits of 140, 36 and then 20 to take the match 4-2. The final match went to a decider before Cassar made it to another qualifying final. Both players exchanged breaks of throw twice before Cassar finally held throw in the fifth leg. Hendley then held throw comfortably in the sixth to force a deciding leg. Cassar made steady progress but a 140 from Hendley changed the leg. Cassar was now under pressure but could only leave 40 when chasing 81. Hendley stepped up to throw tops but it went astray and she left 20 after her visit. Cassar then stepped up and with her next dart landed it in the tops bed to win the match and gain the last position in the qualifying finals.

Cassar then went on to join her son as a qualifier in the Australian Open Darts. The former Australian representative defeated New Zealand’s Tara Mears in another tight battle. She broke the Mears throw in the opening leg of their qualifying final before throwing a magnificent 124 check out to go two legs up. Mears then held throw but it was tough, scoring a 140 to leave 50 and with Cassar unable to checkout 70 the Kiwi scored what she needed for her first leg win. Both players then held throw but both also spurned multiple chances at a break. So close to the end and Cassar having just to hold throw for the match Mears put in a solid leg and broke her opponent’s throw to send the match into a deciding leg. Cassar won the throw and was not going to repeat the previous poor leg. When Mears left 33 chasing 86 the Victorian stepped up to throw a double ten to qualify.

Homer had a clearer win against Queenslander of pacific island descent (from Niue), Seini Vakanofiti. Despite busting 70 Homer was able to get the job down on the next visit and had an opening break of throw. She then held throw comfortably, before Vakanofiti did the same to move back to within a leg of her opponent. An 18-dart leg and 99 checkout emphasised the quality of Homer but Vakanofiti stayed in the match by holding her next throw. She had to break the Homer throw to survive in the competition. Things looked good when she threw 139 to leave tops but after she had returned the oche for that checkout she walked away with still twenty to get. Homer never gave Vakanofiti the opportunity as she checked out ten on her next visit to qualify.

The final men’s qualifiers saw Gordon Mathers earn a return to the Australian Darts Open field with a qualifying win over Shannon O’Brien. Scott Hallett made a return as well, taking the final position after he defeated Anton Soc in the last qualifying final.

The round of 16 saw Hallett win 5-0 over Desean Allen. Ryan Grehardy conceded just one more leg in his 5-1 win over Michael Hotchkiss and Soc defeated Mark Scaffidi 5-2. Dean Gibs and Torin Helmore both won 5-3 (over Trent Mitchell and Troy Papworth respectively), whilst the matches were rounded out with deciding legs victories for Shannon O’Brien, Mathers, and Justin Thompson (over Tony Brown, Liam McDonell, and Jordan Ford.)

The next rounds went 5-3 in all the matches. O’Brien won the first four legs before Helmore got the next three in succession before O’Brien held throw in 17 darts to win the match. Thompson and Mathers both held throw before GG threw a 13 darter to take a 2-1 lead on throw. Thompson again responded with a hold of throw before taking the lead by breaking his opponent’s throw in 17 darts. Mathers broke straight back, despite busting a visit at four. He then threw six perfect darts on throw but the 9-darter remained elusive and he settled for an 11 dart hold of throw. Mathers then collected the final leg in 13 darts against the throw to take the win in this match between two Australian darting champions. Hallett went three legs up before Gibbs held throw (with a 110 check out) and then broke and held to draw level at three all. Hallett held throw and when Gibbs left 20 chasing 82 Hallett checked out a total of 60 with his next two darts to progress in the tournament. Gerhardy held throw in the opening leg of his match against Soc but his opponent responded by doing the same after both players had chances at the second leg. Both players then held for a second time, Soc checking out 96 in the fourth game. He then broke Gerhardy’s throw, Soc’s checkout set up by a 134 visit as he chased a 150 end to the leg. Another 96 check out on throw and he was 4-2 ahead. Both players then held throw, Gerhardy in 16 darts, meaning that Soc had secured the win.

Mathers opened the first leg with three successive 140s and held throw in 15 darts. He then opened with a maximum and backed it up with another two visits later, matching what O’Brien had done the previous visit. 12 darts in the second leg and GG was 2-0 up. He then held throw with a 112 check out meaning he was 3-0 up after just 42 darts had been thrown from his hand. O’Brien slowed the Mathers’ momentum by holding throw in the fourth before Mathers resumed the onslaught with a 16 dart hold of throw. O’Brien once again held throw in the sixth leg but 17 darts later the match was over and Mathers had won through to the Open with a 5-2 win.

Hallett it even more one way in his qualifying final against Soc. He held throw in the opening game and then broke Soc in 14 darts in the second leg. In the next leg Hallett seemed a long way in front but a 136 visit from Soc on a 150-checkout attempt would have given him hope of a revival. He was unable to check out on his next visit, though, and Hallett finally took the leg to lead 3-0. Hallett then broke in 17 darts before finishing off the match in a flurry. He left 24 when trying to check out 154 but was far enough in front to come back to the oche and finish the match off with his next dart in hand.

Thus, the Australian Darts Open field was completed with the names of Laurie Loch, Stuart Coburn, Gordon ‘GG’ Mathers, and Scott Hallett joining the men’s field and Janine Cassar and Maureen Homer the women’s field.