‘Mighty’ Michael van Gerwen secured his sixth Premier League title on Monday night as he defeated ‘the Rockstar’ Joe Cullen 11-10 in a thrilling encounter to secure victory in the final at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin. It was a hugely significant achievement for ‘the Green Machine’ as he won his first major title in eighteen months. Following a tough year in 2021, van Gerwen has shown improvement this year finishing second in the Premier League table and winning three European Tour events. The Premier League is made up of a field of the very best players in the world and to gain victory in such a prestigious competition will do wonders for MVG’s confidence and keep him on track to regain the form that made many consider him one of the very best to play the sport.
The Final Four
Final’s Night in Berlin consisted of the top four players in the Premier League table. Jonny Clayton topped the table qualifying on Night 13 in Glasgow by winning the night, ironically against Michael van Gerwen. MVG himself finished in second place qualifying after Night 15 in Sheffield. ‘The Machine’ James Wade was third having won two nights and finally, Joe Cullen sneaked into the playoffs on the last night defeating Peter Wright 6-4 in an epic encounter to overtake ‘Snakebite’ and move into that all-important fourth spot. It meant that there was an incredibly strong group of players in the playoffs. This consisted of the reigning Premier League Champion, a five-time winner, the 2009 Champion and the 2022 Masters Champion.
Debutant Joe Cullen faced a tough task in the opening Semi-Final as he took on Jonny Clayton, who had won four out of the sixteen nights this year and was battling to defend his crown. However, ‘the Ferret’ faced a shock to the system as Cullen came racing out the blocks breaking throw instantly and punishing some sloppy missed darts at doubles from Clayton to fire himself into an almost unassailable 6-0 lead. Jonny Clayton was able to get a couple of legs on board but he just was not firing on all cylinders and ‘the Rockstar’ was in no mood to be sympathetic to the Welshman as the players headed into the break with the scoreline at 8-2. Unsurprisingly, after hitting a Premier League record 11 maximums Joe Cullen wrapped up a 10-4 win and a place in the final.
Michael van Gerwen did not have the easiest of games himself as the world number three took on the world number five James Wade in a repeat of a clash that had taken place just two days earlier. Like Cullen, ‘the Machine’ began the contest with a break of throw but, unlike Jonny Clayton, MVG broke straight back and held his throw in the next leg denying Wade the chance to move further ahead. Both players looked on form and it was a close contest as the break came with the score at 6-4. Unfortunately, after the break James Wade could not replicate the form that had taken him to finals night and Michael van Gerwen rattled off four straight legs to advance to the final.
‘The Green Machine’ started the final in great form as he took an early 3-1 lead but Cullen was playing very well himself and was able to hit back in the fifth and sixth legs, keeping his cool to level the score. In the ninth leg ‘the Rockstar’ took out a magnificent 141 finish but, despite this, still went into the first break 2 legs down with the score at 6-4. Another clinical 114 checkout from Cullen allowed him to get within one leg of van Gerwen and the next two legs went his way as the scoreline swung to 7-6 in his favour.
He wasn’t able to hold his advantage for long though as van Gerwen quickly levelled the score and in the nineteenth leg, MVG went one away from victory with a 92 checkout breaking throw with 12 darts to seemingly find himself on the verge of glory. However, Cullen had other ideas as he produced a 13 dart leg to break the van Gerwen throw and force a decider. Undeterred by this, Michael van Gerwen went on to claim the win, after Cullen had heartbreakingly missed a match dart at double 16, as the Dutchman pinned double 14 to regain the crown he last won in 2019. He has now equalled Phil Taylor’s record of Premier League titles.Embed from Getty Images
‘I have been going through a really tough time, so to win this title, it means a lot to me’Michael van Gerwen: Sky Sports
It was a brilliant performance from ‘the Green Machine’ who scooped the £275,000 cash prize and continued his fantastic record in this competition, having only failed to make the final twice in ten PL appearances. The three time World Champion also confirmed that he will be targeting more success now having banished his demons in securing his first title in eighteen months.
‘I’m going to beat that record as well. don’t worry. I have still got 10 or 15 years to go’Michael van Gerwen: Sky Sports
MVG must be slightly patient for now though due to the fact that he will miss the World Cup of Darts as he undergoes surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. This will allow him to be one hundred percent match fit as he heads into two of the biggest competitions in Darts later in the year, the World Matchplay and the World Championships.
For Joe Cullen, it was a fantastic debut year in the Premier League and this defeat should not overshadow his achievements this year. Although he was not able to continue the trend of the last two years where debut players in Glen Durrant and Jonny Clayton have gone on to win the trophy, to reach the final after playing the world’s most elite darts players week in week out is superb and he will only continue to improve. Moreover, the fact that he was only one dart away from victory showcases how well he played and that he belongs at the top level.