Newly crowned world champion Rob Cross will be one of four debutants to feature in the 2018 Unibet Premier League, after the field for the 16-week roadshow event was confirmed on Monday evening.
Cross capped off an extraordinary debut year as a professional by winning the William Hill World Championship title on Monday, averaging 107.67 and converting 60% of his attempts at double to thrash a departing Phil Taylor 7-2 in a memorable finale.
This sees the former electrician rise to 3rd on the PDC Order of Merit, and he’ll be one of four new faces featuring in this year’s Premier League. World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney and Champions League winner Mensur Suljovic will also make their Premier League bows, alongside UK Open and World Cup finalist Gerwyn Price.
World number one Michael van Gerwen will be vying for a third consecutive Premier League crown as he begins his title defence on February 1st, and ‘The Green Machine’ is one of only four from last year’s field to return, in the biggest Premier League shake-up since the tournament’s inception.
Last year’s finalist and world number two Peter Wright is another automatic selection, whilst former Premier League winners Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld are the other established stars to retain their spots in this elite competition.
Five-time world champion Van Barneveld joins Gurney, Suljovic and Price amongst the six wildcard selections, whilst Michael Smith and Simon Whitlock will also return to the Premier League mix in 2018.
Smith will aim to improve on his debut showing which saw him finish 10th in 2016, whilst 2012 Premier League finalist Whitlock makes his return after a four-year hiatus. ‘The Wizard’ reached his first major final since 2013 in October’s World Grand Prix, and will be looking to make amends having suffered relegation in the 2014 campaign.
However, there are a number of big-name absentees from this year’s competition, including 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, following his retirement from professional competition. 2009 champion James Wade misses out, as do two-time world champion Adrian Lewis and 2015 Premier League semi-finalist Dave Chisnall.
PDC Chairman Barry Hearn said: “It’s a very fresh looking Premier League. We’ve got four debutants and a truly global field. It’s unbelievable – for Rob Cross to go into number three in the world takes away a selection problem.
The other six were really difficult to get because we had so many contenders, and so many great players who’ve been in it for a number of years. Dimitri Van den Bergh and Jamie Lewis were on the shortlist.
“Maybe it’s a little early. We’re going to give them another year, probably use them in a few World Series events to give them a bit more experience and look forward to them making another push with their career and knocking on the door of the Premier League next year.”
The ten players will face each other once over the first nine weeks, before the bottom two players are eliminated following Judgement Night at The SSE Arena in Belfast on Thursday March 29th.
The remaining eight players then meet for a second time in the league phase before the top four players progress to compete in the Play-Offs at The O2 Arena in London on Thursday May 17.
The Premier League will visit Germany for the first time in 2018, with the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin hosting week four on February 22nd. Elsewhere, Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena will also host a league night for the third successive year. The fixtures for the first nine weeks of action will be announced in due course.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld