Gisborne’s Tao Matarau Darts Academy has been named International Academy of the Year by the Junior Darts Corporation (JDC) in the United Kingdom.
The club was established a little over a year ago, and applied to the JDC in Feburary this year for affiliation to the Junior Dart Academy system. By April they were added to the Academy Order of Merit.
Matiu Hawea, one of the managers of Tao Matarau says the club was created as a way of providing opportunities for rangatahi in the Tūranga nui a Kiwa region, “Creating opportunities that are going to get them world recognised. Cause little ole Gisborne. You don’t really get much of that.
“This award has just opened up more doors. Has opened up more opportunities for our kids. So we can’t thank Junior Darts Corporation enough.”
The Order of Merit sees the 34 Tao Matarau Academy members attempt a target routine every week, and their data is then uploaded to the JDC website, where they are then ranked against other affiliated players around the world. Hawea estimates there are between 300-500 eligible who for the Order of Merit.
Tao Matarau are amongst the best of them “our kids at the moment are sitting in the top hundred,” Hawea says, “we have one child sitting in the top eight in the world. If he stays in the top eight by the end of this season here, he goes back over to the UK and play in the Alexander Palace.”
The club was originally set up as a way of engaging the youth of Gisborne in a positive way, and Hawea says the benefits go beyond the oche.
“It was created to help the youth at risk, to give them a safe environment. Not just for darts, but also for the tīkanga space, and pepeha. Teach them all their pepeha, all that sort of stuff. The tīkanga, on the marae. We just use darts as a vehicle,” said Hawea.
The Academy, which is based out Tūranga Ararau in Gisborne is also seeing growth amongst its members in the classroom, and in life in general. A key element of darts is of course knowing how subtract, and in the case of Double and Triple points, multiplication. Hawea says they kids numeracy levels are improving through their playing of darts.
“You have to know your numbers. You’ve got to know what triple, or what double you’ve got to end out on.
“There is a physical aspect of trying to hitting the right target, but if you don’t know your numbers, and you can’t count out you’re going to have trouble.”
Tao Matarau has also started a darts program in some local schools, where Hawea says they’re a big hit in Gisborne, “we’ve got three schools involved, and they’re really, really enjoying it,” Hawea says.
The Gisborne darts community gained a lot of inspiration seeing one of their local young talents Tahuna Irwin push through onto the professional scene last year when he took part in the Auckland Darts Masters tournament.
Hawea says Irwin’s appearance on the world stage was a big part of his and his wife Kiri’s inspiration to help create a junior academy in the city. He also believes there is more to come from Tao Matarau, “We’ve got a lot of kids out there who are really going to be great dart players, but they don’t have that sort of support and grounded – grounding to get them to where they need to get too,” he said.
After a speedy rise to the top of the JDC rankings, Tao Matarau aren’t resting on their laurels. A number of their rangatahi are heading to Christchurch for a junior tournament this weekend, with a chance for selection to the national junior side for the JDC Junior Tournament in 2020.