When Peter Wright, one of the long-term challengers to Michael van Gerwen’s throne, is dismissed with the ease that Gerwyn Price mustered on Sunday, it could be easy to mistake the Welshman for his near namesake. A year on from his memorable victory over Gary Anderson, Price looked imperious on a Wolverhampton stage he is slowly making his own. And although 2019 may have seen as many battles with the DRA as fellow tungsten throwers on the oche, Price is looking to take on a different role in the darting hierarchy.
In many ways, Wright has been the long-established PDC no. 2, the understudy to the main act of Mighty Mike. It may not translate in TV titles but Snakebite has managed to keep up with van Gerwen’s floor dominance over the last 3 or 4 years in a way which Anderson (by virtue of not playing as much in those events) and others haven’t. And this was certainly rewarded in Wright’s to date sole major crown at the 2017 UK Open, when Wright capitalised on the absence of the world number one to break his duck. Since then, though, there have been a few notable changes to the top tier make-up. Rob Cross’ emergence in 2017 and World Championship victory of 2018 has made him a key challenger, and Gary Anderson’s dip in and out of form in the period has often meant the clarity of who is the main contender to MvG hasn’t been strong.
But in his first victory over the world number one on Sunday, Gerwyn Price has well and truly made his claim for the World Championship. He has had a highly impressive year and has excelled in spite of or perhaps even because of his ongoing battle with fans. Alongside his Grand Slam crown is a final at the recent European Championship and last four finishes at the UK Open and Champions League as well as 3 Players Championships and a European Tour title. When the 2019 darts season is micro-analysed by the experts in a couple of months time, I have no doubt that it will be Price’s name, with his new found ubiquitous status and strong results, that frequently comes up in conversation.
It is important, however, to avoid the hyperbole where possible on ‘contenders’ to MvG’s throne. If you look through the dartsweb archives, you will find an an article where I discuss the prospect of the aforementioned Wright becoming the next world number one. I am yet to be proven right on that one and doubt I will be, with over two years later, van Gerwen yet to be budged from his top spot. But despite the article’s seeming lack of relevance now, reading back, a lot of the same arguments could stand if you replaced Wright’s name with that of the Welshman. There is one big difference, however. Michael van Gerwen is not enjoying anywhere near the levels of supremacy as he was even when that piece was written and has frequently faced what would have been surprising losses to say the least a few years ago to lesser players, whether that Price in a major semi-final or Ross Smith a few weeks ago at the European Championship.
So where does Gerwyn Price stand in the pecking order? As arguably one of the most open and competitive World Championships for a number of years, the Ally Pally proffers a true test of van Gerwen’s resilience at the top. Don’t be mistaken, the upcoming Worlds aren’t the first time he has faced a credible challenge. Despite being the world’s best player for the last 4 or 5 years, he has won just 3 World Championships and was infamously booted out of the 2018 edition by Rob Cross, someone who still remains a massive and looming threat on the oche. Despite Cross’ equally impressive 2019, there is a reason why the bookies are suggesting Price is the second favourite for the competition. His sheer determination to not let very public battles over his character define his season and creep up the rankings from being merely in the mix to a regular title contender gives him the best hope of preventing a 4th world title for Michael van Gerwen and, perhaps, offering a challenge to his domination on the world circuit in years to come.