FORMER postman Joe Cullen is looking to deliver in the darts world.
The Brighouse darter has broken into the world’s top 30 for the first time and is aiming to achieve renowned Premier League status.
He has already earned a spot in the World Series this year and has been rising through the ranks since giving up his career as a postman in 2009.
In 2012, Cullen was tipped to be amongst the new breed of young darts stars including current Premier League champion Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith, who is seventh in the world rankings.
Cullen, known as ‘The Rockstar’, is determined to mix it with legendary Phil Taylor and other members of the darts elite, having previously defeated many of them in various tournaments.
Cullen beat Taylor in 2010 to earn a place in the last 16 of the John McEvoy Gold Dart Classic in Killarney, and had victories over Dave Chisnall and van Gerwen in the 2014 Players’ Championship. Another former world champion, Raymond van Barneveld, also fell foul of Cullen’s improving skills last year during the European Darts Grand Prix, where an impressive 110.6 average enabled him to win 6-2.
“The Premier League is the goal,” he says. “But to get in there by 2018 is probably more realistic, to be honest,” he said.
The Premier League began in 2005, featuring seven players, but now involves 10 of the biggest names - the top four in the rankings plus six wild cards - from the top 30 competing on the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) circuit.
Darts has recently seen a huge upsurge in popularity recently with the support of sports promoter Barry Hearn, who is Chairman of the PDC.
Prize money for the winner of the Premier League is up to £350,000, which as Cullen describes, hasn’t always been the case. “I came into it when it wasn’t so big, the prize money for winning a tournament would be £4,000, but now it can be £10,000 each day’.”
Of his start in the game, Cullen says: “When I was about 16, I was playing in local pubs with my dad. To begin with, I didn’t really like the sport to be honest!
“I went along with it and played for the sake of it, but then the money started getting bigger”
On his personal progression, Cullen appreciates that there has to be an amount of determinism. “I’ve taken darts a lot more seriously this year than I have done previously, and it’s paying off. Obviously with the invitation for the World Series, it is a measure of how far I’ve come.”
Cullen plays in the one-day Players Championships on Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd in Barnsley, plus qualifiers for the Grand Slam and World Series Finals on Sunday 23rd.
He also participates in the Ladbrokes World Series of Darts Finals event on November 5-6 in Glasgow, and is in the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals (November 25-27 at Butlins Minehead), as well as the William Hill World Championship (Dec 15-Jan 2).
Cullen knows he might not have an easy ride to the top, stating “There’s literally no easy games at all. You’ve got to be the best in every single one.”