Australian International and Aussie Darts legend Russell Stewart has called it a Day.
Russell Stewart used to come onto stage accompanied by great Australian songs by the likes of ACDC and INXS and included ‘Downunder’ as one of his entrance themes. It was evidence of how proud he was to be Australian in a sport many defined as English. Together with the likes of Tony David and Wayne Weening, he smashed through overseas barriers to create darting pathways for so many Aussies in the years to come. Throughout his career he was Aussie through and through and remains just as passionate about his country to this day.
Stewart was a big deal in the UK, in 1989 he was better recognised across London than his local streets around Canberra. He played against some of the greatest of all time in a period of great change for the sport of darts.
Stewart is a jovial man. He may never have won a BDO or PDC World Championships, Tony David the only Australian to have done that to this day, but he jokes that he was very influential in their history. After all, as he jokes, he was instrumental in Phil Taylor’s first world championship, losing 3 set to 1 to ‘The Power’ in the opening round of the BDO World Darts Championships. The year before he was number two in the world so he was favourite for the match but just became another big name to fall as the Taylor phenomenon rose.
Stewart had grown up in a darting family, his father, having emigrated from England as a ten pound Pom, played darts for Australia. He enjoyed the game, although as a youngster he had to wait to enjoy success, as he had to be before entering into licenced clubs to play the majors.
Those majors would come his way. At 23 he won his first Australian Masters and at 25 he had won three! He missed out in 1986 before winning again in 1987 and 1988. Through that period he became virtually untouchable, being Australian Grand Masters champion for four successive years from 1987 to 1990 (he added 1993 and 2001’s trophies to that collection.) He won the Australian Championships in 1988, 1989, 1993 and 1994.
He had already won an overseas tournament by age 24, the Scottish Open, and had been part of the World Championships that same year – held in Stoke (losing 2-0 to Peter Locke in a tournament won by Eric Bristow, who beat Locke in the Quarter Finals.) In 1985 he had been a quarter finalist in the World Masters (losing 2-1 to Tony Payne.) Three years later he would repeat that feat, this time taken out by eventual losing finalist John Lowe. The same year, Australia’s bicentenary, he made the final of the richest tournament in the world at the time, the Tokyo World Darts Grand Prix. He took out Robert Mackenzie, Paul Lim and John Lowe along the way until he fell to Eric Bristow in the final.
Stewart represented Australia in the WDF World Cup in 1983 and in Brisbane in 1985 Frank Palko and Stewart defeated the Kiwis to make the final of the pairs event. They lost to England in the final. He made five more appearances for Australia in the WDF World Cup all the way through to 2001.
In 2008 he won the trophy that had his name on it, winning the Russell Stewart Classic, before putting two near misses from the previous two DPA Oceanic Masters behind him and winning the event, thus qualifying for his very first PDC World Championships. He lost in the first round proper to Adrian Lewis which meant Aussie fans missed out on the first head to head Australian match in the PDC World Championships, as Paul Nicholson instead went on to beat Lewis in the next round.
Stewart’s representative career was still progressing as he became captain of the PDC Australian team and over the years his Aussie teams have had some tough battles with their Kiwi counterparts for the Frampton-Stewart trophy. He also continued to be a part of DPA events and enjoyed still being competitive in them. Stewart was the inaugural entrant into the DPA Hall of Fame.
As he hands over the captaincy of the national team Stewart will still be welcome at the oche anytime he comes along. He has achieved so much more along the way than just the above, but the things that have remained true along the whole journey is that he is an outstanding darts player, a very proud Australian, a friend and mentor to so many and, most importantly, a brilliant man.