Six of the Best: Rising Stars

Red Dragon Darts

Darts is a game enjoyed by young and old and the former have enjoyed a wealth of success in recent years. The meteoric rise of Luke Littler has led to the popularity of darts skyrocketing and inspiring many to try and follow in his wake. 

But ‘The Nuke’ isn’t the only new generation talent to break through. Dutchman Gian Van Veen and former wunderkind Josh Rock are already established and many others are on the verge.

Here are 6 prospects who could be on the cusp of something big:

Leighton Bennett (19 , England)

Leighton ‘Boom Boom’ Bennett is a name that may sound familiar to fans of the WDF / BDO and for good reason. The once mega prospect has finally begun realising potential that at one point seemed to know no bounds. 

Bennett first rose to prominence when in 2018 , aged 12 he shocked PDC Star Ricky Evans to win the Cambridgeshire Open. Leighton would go onto win the BDO World Youth Championship in 2019. He remarkably reached 6 semi finals on the Senior BDO tour that year and finished runner up at the Luxembourg Open. 

He became the youngest ever player on the Lakeside Stage and the first to play in the youth final and senior tournament that year,eliminated by Former Champion Scott Mitchell. 

Leighton had obvious potential but his attitude and showmanship was often derided. He had every right to be confident but some felt he pushed it too far and was seen as arrogant despite his age. 

The iconic figure of Martin Adams even advised Leighton to look at his attitude. Suddenly he couldn’t replicate his 9 dart feats or his 100+ averages and failed to capitalise.

Until 2024 when he, to the surprise of many, won a PDC Pro tour card via q school. Bennett has had a steady year but has shown some good signs as he seeks to lay the foundation for his future career. Last 16 appearances, and a 9 darter against Lukas Wenig, on the Pro Tour. On his day ‘Boom Boom’ could easily make a deep run on the Pro Tour and could be a potential qualifier for the majors next year.

A dark horse at this year’s World Youth Championship?

Ralf Laumanis (17 , Latvia)

The Latvian is a lesser known figure but he has certainly earned his place on this list. 

Already signed to Unicorn at just 17 the Latvian is seen by many as the successor to his countryman ‘Razmatazz’ Razma. Ralf is heralded by Madars himself, after making an impact on the Nordic and Baltic tour, Laumanis has beaten many of the regions star players. 

He is hoovering up in the WDF youth scene also. Winning the international youth challenge Vienna and the Kaunas, Lithuanian and Estonian Opens.  The 17-year-old now  sist atop the WDF boys rankings and is a favourite for the Lakeside Youth Title. 

Could Laumanis be the first Latvian PDC title winner in youth or senior darts? 

Craig Galliano (22, Gibraltar)

Like many of his darting Countrymen,  Galliano doubles as a footballer in the Gibraltarian System. The 22 year old is therefore not always the most active player and thus hasn’t made huge strides in his fame as of yet. 

But the talent is there and so is the potential. ‘The Imp’ is a solid player who is perhaps best known for his partnership with Justin Hewitt at the World Cup of darts (one which they will replicate this year) or for his Euro Tour game with Peter Wright after securing a rare Gibraltarian victory on the PDC stage in his previous game. 

Galliano shows flashes of his potential and is a tidy finisher, he and Hewitt made Gibraltar proud with a victory over Guyana in the World Cup and they will look to spring another upset this year as the unheralded duo could be this year’s dark horses. 

Roman Benecky (24, Czechia)

Secured a maiden PDC title this year and will look to emulate or even eclipse his compatriot Adam Gawlas. 

Benecky was perhaps a surprise victor on the Winmau Development Tour and not many would’ve had the Czech as the 8th Ranked player at this stage of the year. But, he has been incredibly consistent and his game has evolved. Whereas in the past he may have faltered in the latter stages.

Benecky made his Euro Tour debut last year and has been unlucky at times in the Eastern European qualifying tournaments, he  is bound to reach the European stage soon and is more than capable of stunning any unsuspecting ‘big name’. 

He previously represented his country at the World Cup and as a potential tour card holder next year , he could unseat Gawlas or Sedlacek and Don the colours of his nation once more.

Andras Borbely (18, Hungary)

Borbely is an undoubted prospect but is it too early to class him as a rising star? 

The Hungarian enjoyed a prolific 2023 where he claimed 7 WDF youth titles. He wasn’t able to win the Youth Title at Lakeside but impressed nonetheless and the Hungarian showed he is one to look for.

Andtas’s momentum has slowed this years and he hasn’t been able to quite reach his awe inspiring form of 2023. If he starts to play on a more regular basis then the Hungarian will likely start to Pick up more titles and is one to watch at the PDC World Youth Championship and the Development Tour. 

Wessel Nijman (22, The Netherlands)

It may seem wrong to class the Dutchman as a rising star but in many ways he started afresh and is making a huge success of a second chance. 

A divisive figure amongst dart fans, the young Dutchman from Uitgeest has made the most of his debated return to professional darts. Nijman was suspended for 4 years (2 and half suspended) by the DRA back in 2020 after he admitted to taking payment to ensure he lost a game.

Nijman had a fantastic return year in 2023 where he won 3 Dev tour titles and qualified for the PDC World Championship where he lost out to veteran Steve Beaton. Those 3 titles helped him earn a 2 year tour card where has had mixed success so far.

He hasn’t been able to replicate his scintillating youth form at the higher level but his tier tour performances are remarkable. A staggering 113 average in the final of Dev Tour 9. Two titles so far this year for Wessel mean he occupies the second spot in the rankings and  in good stead for reaching the Grand Slam , Ally Pally and a good seeding at the World Youth Championships.

The Dutchman is an elite scorer and his averages are eye watering,  it’s just a matter of producing them when they matter the most. Look for Wessel making a big run on the Pro Tour this year and take a good win at Ally Pally.


Article originally appeared in Darts World Extra (Issue 17 – June 2024)

Words: Ryan James Mingay

Images: PDC, PDC Europe and Chris Sargeant/WDF

An independent consultant, coach, author and analyst in the sports and business sectors. I am regularly retained to advise and coach professionals in a variety of fields.

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