Jodie Whittaker - 12 October 2013
Spectator’s eyes acclimatise slowly to lighting extremes at the darts venue. The long rectangular hall features rows of dartboards partnered with chalkboards and laser-like spots, piercing the dimness of the windowless hall.
The quintessentially Aussie venue usually attracts anyone willing to ‘have a go’ at darts - with cold beer and warm welcome, but for this week, the Geelong Darts Club has hosted the 14th Australian Masters Games events. This is one of the few sports where a casual player might compete with a beverage in one hand and their dart in the other.
Rock anthems from ACDC, Cold Chisel and Midnight Oil are at home with the Parma and Chips café offerings. During Monday’s doubles event, committed darts athletes in ten-pin-bowling style shirts congregated around a central bank of tables, strategising and swapping stories of the bullseye that got away.
With the main door ajar, occasional wafts of stale cigarette smoke sneak in, reminiscent of bygone days when darts was only played at the pub. Non-smoking regulations now prohibit players enjoying indoor nicotine hits. This change has shattered the stereotype of the archival darts player, but encouraged more non-smokers to partake in the sport.
Rusted-on players who regularly travel the country for their game, stand alongside newbies still learning the rules. One of this year’s Games darts ‘L-platers’, is 59 year-old Fresno, California’s Dave Bush, who along with mate Sydneysider Ken Lester, is learning to play the sport as he competes.
The two met playing against each other in World Masters Games in Melbourne and again in Edmonton, Canada, deciding to join forces and enter the Australian Masters Games, Pan-Pac Masters and the Alice Springs Masters Games.
“As we got older, Dave and I wanted to continue competing in masters events, but our joints are starting to cave in. Playing darts was a way we could keep attending the Games without injuring ourselves,” Lester admitted.
The Games’ darts family is a welcoming and accepting bunch.
“Everyone here has been fantastic. They are so friendly and show us what we’re supposed to be doing. They’ve even been teaching us the rules as we had no idea,” Lester laughed.
At 57 years of age, Lester is proud of his 23 yeas of competition as a master in basketball.
“The organisation, comradeship, friendliness of everyone at these events is absolutely amazing. That’s why I want to continue. I say keep going, but the body is saying no. That’s where darts allows us to continue.”
Lester has plans of becoming an official or continuing coaching basketball teams or anything that keeps him involved in Masters sport once he considers he is way too old or injured to compete.
The Australian Masters Games is one of Australia’s largest multi sporting events and concludes this evening.
For further Australian Masters Games information and to register, visit - www.AustralianMastersGames.com
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