Great Britain

Gerwyn Price: 'I care what people think but I'm out there to do a job'

‘I’m still quite a shy person, even though you probably wouldn’t think that,” Gerwyn Price says quietly while offering a little smile in acknowledgement of his public persona as the roaring, fist-pumping and swaggering new world champion of darts. Price still retains the physique of his previous occupation, which ended in 2014 when he switched sports from professional rugby to darts. The 35-year-old displayed much of the combative steeliness and aggression that coursed through him when he played hooker as he dominated the PDC world darts championship and crushed his old rival Gary Anderson 7-3 in the final this month.

His victory was no surprise, for it continued Price’s inexorable rise to the summit of darts in a dizzyingly short space of time. He is now the world No 1, but rather than revel in his remarkable transformation Price seems more interested in analysing his own complex character. “When I played rugby for Cross Keys and Neath [in the Welsh Premier League] and then in Glasgow [in the Pro12] I always had to sit at the back of the room when we did video analysis. I used to hate speaking. They’d ask me: ‘What do you think we should have done in this part of the game?’ I’d be like …”

Price replicates his squirming embarrassment. “I just wouldn’t know what to say. So I used to hide at the back of the room and hope they never asked me any questions. But I always gave 100% in matches and training sessions.”

Does he now wish he had spoken more? Price shakes his head. “I’m still like that. I can do an interview with you because I’ve learned to do it. I came to darts from rugby and I was chucked into the deep end. Back then I never thought I could talk to anyone in an interview. But if you put me up to speak in front of 10 or 20 people now I still couldn’t do that.

“It’s like this [Six Nations] Sin Bin TV series which Gareth Thomas [the former Welsh rugby international] is running. They want me to go on there. I want to do things like that but because I’ve never done it I get a little anxious. But I’m going to give it a crack.”

Gerwyn Price kisses the PDC world championship trophy
Gerwyn Price kisses the PDC world championship trophy. Photograph: Luke Walker/Getty Images

Price is pretty good at most things he takes a crack at, even if he still sounds slightly bewildered by the speed of his success. Seven years ago he was a very casual player in the pub. But he won eight tournaments last year and victory in the worlds netted him £500,000. Price is now a darting millionaire and a force of nature at the oche.

“If this was 2014 and you wrote up what I’d won and said I was going to be world champion and world No 1 in 2021, I’d say: ‘Yeah, whatever. You must be dreaming.’ I wouldn’t have believed this could be possible.”

In January 2014, Michael van Gerwen won his first world championship and also became world No 1 – a position he held until Price replaced him. “I watched Michael win that final,” Price says, “because I was a big fan of darts even before I started playing in the pub league. I definitely would have watched many more finals before that when Phil Taylor was playing.”

Prince smiles bashfully when I ask which player he supported most seven years ago? “Believe it or not, Gary Anderson was my favourite player.”

Apart from playing each other in this month’s final, Anderson and Price have a troubled history, which stretches back to the 2018 Grand Slam of Darts. The Welshman beat the Scot to win his first Grand Slam title, but he was greeted by vociferous booing from a packed crowd in Wolverhampton. They sided with Anderson, who had protested bitterly against Price’s extravagant and fiery celebrations throughout the match. Price was punished with the heaviest fine in darts – although he managed to halve the original £21,500 on appeal.

“I used to love the way he played,” he says of Anderson, “and he was the sort of person who would miss a load of doubles, bomb opportunities and I always wanted him to win. Back then Phil Taylor and Gary were my favourite players. When Michael was on the rise, I liked the way he played as well.”

The scars from that altercation with Anderson ran deep, because Price was cast in an unwanted role as the pantomime villain. The consistently vocal and beery crowds that crammed into every major venue took pleasure in hounding Price. He describes the lowest moment that occurred 15 months ago when, in front of a baying crowd in Dublin, he buckled during the sustained booing and lost to Dave Chisnall.

“I think I was 1-0 up and I was trying to get the game won and finished so I could get out of there. I had the crowd on my back and I was being given lots of bad messages. It was a point where I thought: ‘Is it worth it any more?’ I’m glad I stuck to my guns.”

Did Price come close to walking away from darts? “If you’d asked me that day, I would have said: ‘Yeah, that’s it, I’m done.’ For 24 hours I was giving up. But then you calm down and say: ‘No, I’m not walking away.’”

Price might have benefited from the absence of any spectators during the world championship final when, apart from a late wobble, he was fiercely concentrated against Anderson. But it could be argued he also struggled in the early rounds. Without the crowd to motivate him to play still harder, he battled through desperately close encounters against Jamie Lewis, Brendan Dolan and Darryl Gurney.

“The first round is always the toughest one for me,” Price says. “Being in the final is probably easier. The more sets there are, the better it is for me.”

Price was also lifted by a stream of encouraging messages from the now retired Taylor. They are both fiercely competitive, if thin-skinned and sometimes misunderstood mavericks. Is this why he and Taylor have forged a close bond? “It’s probably because he hasn’t played me that much,” Price says with a laugh.

Gerwyn Price celebrates during a Premier League Darts match in Nottingham in February 2020.
Gerwyn Price celebrates during a Premier League Darts match in Nottingham in February 2020. Photograph: Simon Cooper/PA

“If he’d stayed on for a few years he might think differently. But we just got on from day one. My style is similar to Eric Bristow [the former world champion who died in 2018]. Phil and Eric were best mates early on. I care what people think but I’m out there to do a job and Phil was the same.”

Price is such a compelling presence in darts that, hopefully, when the crowds return they might be more forgiving. “I seem to be getting a lot more positive feedback,” he says. “I don’t do much Twitter. My wife does but she says it’s more positive feedback – like most of the messages I get on Instagram. I could have 500 messages and five of those would be negative. So the positives definitely outweigh the negative now whereas a few years ago it was probably 50-50.

“People don’t realise that, even before I played Gary in 2018, my game was exactly the same. That one incident changed so much because it was in a major final against someone who’s got one of the biggest fanbases. People don’t seem to understand that I played that way whether against Gary, Michael or one of my brothers. I still play the same way now.”

Price is a layered but endearing character. He talks about investing his money in property, his love of greyhound racing and the sacrifices he and his wife, Bethan, and their two daughters have made over the past seven years.

Price is also amusing company. After telling me how much he enjoys doing plumbing and roofing repairs on the period properties he loves to restore with his best friend, John Ahearne, who drives him to most tournaments, Price chortles when I say he is lucky I don’t live in the Welsh valleys – otherwise I would be calling him up every week to fix a leaky tap or a cracked tile. “We’re pretty handy so if you need any help, I’ll send my buddy John over. When it comes to waterworks, or putting a pipe here and there for radiators, it’s no problem. I can do blockwork and we can do the roofing with John. He’s a tiler. We can sort you out.”

Gerwyn Price looks for a way through the Pontypridd defence when playing rugby union for Cross Keys in 2012
Gerwyn Price looks for a way through the Pontypridd defence when playing rugby union for Cross Keys in 2012. Photograph: Huw Evans Picture Agency

Darts will remain Price’s consuming focus and he looks delighted when I say he should be some player in another seven years. “Exactly. I’m still learning this game and I’m nowhere near the finished article. In the worlds I didn’t play anywhere near to what I can do. If I can keep improving over the next seven years who knows what I can achieve.

“After the worlds I said I don’t care if I never win another tournament. But now I’m thinking I want to win everything again. I want to win it over and over. Michael has got three of these trophies. I want to try and beat those sort of people now. I’ll never beat Phil who won 16 but I could probably get five [world titles].”

Sign up to The Recap, our weekly email of editors’ picks

Taylor might stop texting him then. Price laughs. “Phil’s a good bloke but he’d probably keep texting me while trying to put me off.”

Price stresses that so much depends on his increased desire to succeed. “The day after the worlds I was more relieved that I’d won and become world No 1. But it’s different now. The next target is to win the Premier League and to defend my world title. There’s going to be a big target on my back but I can’t wait to rise to that challenge. I’m not going to be hiding from anyone.”

Football news:

Willian: I really wanted to stay at Chelsea. Leaving for Arsenal is a difficult decision, there is a serious rivalry between the clubs
Kane will not leave Tottenham this summer. Clubs do not have the money for such large deals
Antonio Conte: The fans of our rivals said that Conte should be kicked out of Inter. It would help them
Real Madrid is ready to listen to proposals for Varane if contract negotiations do not start by the summer
Antonio Cassano: Juve bought Ronaldo to win the Champions League, but the results got worse. They took Serie A without him
Manchester United could buy Pau Torres from Villarreal. Kunde from Sevilla is too expensive
Lautaro Martinez: I negotiated with Barca, but that's in the past. I will sign a new contract with Inter