New Zealander, Lilian Broadbent (formerly Barnett) made darts history in 1985 when she became the first non-British winner of the WINMAU Women’s World Masters at the Rainbow Suite, Kensington, London in December that year.
Back then the Masters was the most difficult top darts competition to win for both men and women. Starting from scratch, numerous floor rounds were played until the group final stages were reached where the last sixteen played off for a place in the quarter-finals.
In 1985 England’s Dave Whitcombe won the Men’s championship but it was a relatively unknown darter who lifted the Women’s title, Lilian Barnett. Lilian hailed from New Zealand and was 8th in the British Darts Organisation’s Women’s International Rankings but even so her name was not widely known but she certainly had experience on the oche. (Image PC/DW Archive. Used with permission.) Dave Whitcombe told me recently
Hi Pat. Yes I remember Lilian. Hailing from New Zealand I obviously didn’t know her very well but I did speak to her a few times especially on the presentation evening of the World Masters. She was very pleasant to get on with and had a jovial personality. Lilian wasn’t expected to win that day and if I remember rightly was one of the outsiders. But her darts play shocked everyone and she thoroughly deserved her title.
In the Group Finals Lilian beat Scotland’s Margaret Drumm 3-0 and then, in the quarter-finals, overcame the challenge of Norway’s Gierd Wage by a similar score line. Lilian’s opponent in the semi-finals was England International and Manchester’s Pat Connaughton. Lilian won 3-1.
In the legendary final outsider Lilian beat the England’s Sonya Ralphs (who had won the title in 1983) 3-1. Lilian earned herself a cheque for £1,500 (over £4,500 in today’s money) and twelve BDO world ranking points. She was the first non-British player to win the title since its inception in 1982 and the one and only winner to have played in the tournament in her bare feet! (The photograph here shows Lilian receiving a celebratory cuddle from Big Cliff Lazarenko. Date and event not known.) Lilian later told Darts World, “I only play darts once or twice a month; just when I feel like it.”
Although she was not expected to win, anyone who had done their homework would have assessed Lilian as a threat. Since the 1970s Lilian’s catalogue of success reads like a darting almanac. She collected the New Zealand Ladies Singles on three occasions, the Australasian ladies singles, the New Zealand ladies pairs ‘several times’, the Pacific Masters twice, the Pacific Cup ladies singles and pairs, the Royal Hawaiian ladies singles and, in 1985, the WINMAU World Masters.
After the Masters win Lilian went on to lift the Mediterranean Open in 1986 beating England’s Gwen Sutton in the final and then third place in the British Open and runner-up in the British Gold Cup singles. The photo, below, shows Lilian receiving the Mediterranean Open trophy from tournament sponsor Bob Brown.
Lilian also played County darts for Middlesex Ladies ‘B’ team, winning all her matches for that County without dropping a leg. Not surprisingly she moved to the ladies ‘A’ side.
Lilian told Darts World
Not only were my opponents skilful players but games were played in terrific spirit and friendship. Without the support, help and advice of those players I would not have been able to stay for so long.
Two years later Lilian was interviewed by Darts World magazine during which she revealed that she had only come over to Britain for three months, her visit sponsored by Puma Products. However, due to personal problems back home, decided to extend her stay for a further nine months. As soon as the sponsorship money dried up Lilian had been forced to dip into her savings. Although tournament prize money helped Lilian told Darts World
I had hoped to stay on at the end of the twelve months but when I applied for a work permit and extension to my visa it was turned down. This has put a lot of strain and pressure on my game, knowing that I have to find the fare to get back home.
I love the darts scene over here. It’s all-year round and of a very high standard. It is easy to appreciate why players are so good.
Lilian then returned to New Zealand and a little later married again and became Lilian Broadbent.
At the end of her Darts World interview in February 1987 Lilian told the reporter that her long-term aim was to return home and, with the lessons learned during her year in Britain, work hard on attracting new sponsors to the sport of darts in New Zealand. She saw these as vital ingredients if the land of the Kiwi was to make a serious assault into the top echelon of world darts. In addition she planned to groom future champions. She said
I have tasted victory champagne. I should like others to have the chance. I want to promote the sport and bring fresh new players into the game because they are the players of tomorrow…Already in New Zealand we have junior darts nights but I think the key to attracting new young blood is through families… It’s going to a lot of hard work but it is a challenge I am looking forward to.
When Lilian contacted me out of the blue in 2000 I was thrilled to hear from her and wanted to know more about her career. Lilian informed me that she had given up playing darts for five years following a work-related accident in 1989 but was, at the time of our correspondence, playing for Western Australia (WA). She had first played for WA in 1996 and ‘went through with flying colours.’
She told me
I topped the averages. When I first came to WA ladies the team were averaging 15 per dart so I guess it was easy for me. But since then ladies darts have made it bigger. They are now getting in with no less than 20 per dart. Even Dot McLeod [another top Australian lady darter at the time] is actually playing to the tune of 23 per dart.
In November 2000 I received the final e-mail from Lilian in which she wrote
Since I have been in WA I have won everything from State Masters and ranking tournaments [and the] mixed doubles [and] ladies doubles and I can still give Australia’s number one a run for her money but I guess I am not so consistent because I don’t get a mention by the selectors.
Lilian then told me about a ‘legends group’ in Australia which ‘I might end up playing for them as they only take 45 years and over so there might be a chance for me there.’
Whether or not Lilian joined the legends is unknown. What is known is that, according to her husband David Broadbent, who was married to Lilian for the last 30-plus years
Lilian retired from darts around in the early 2000s after we moved to Gingin, about 80 km north of Perth as it was getting too [difficult to] travel, as I was working away from home and couldn’t drive her to darts. She took up bowls and played for Gingin and Bindoon in the local league for a few years until her health prevented her from playing any longer, although she still enjoyed a game of social bowls and watching the game.
Still the only winner of the WINMAU Women’s World Masters to hail from the southern hemisphere, Lilian will always be remembered as a bubbly happy-go-lucky, fun-loving extrovert New Zealander (a Maori by birth) darter whose darts skills stunned her opponents whilst in Britain and earned her life-long respect from the darts community both here and in New Zealand and later Australia.
Lilian was a true darts star.
Lilian passed away in August 2018.
(Lilian Broadbent (nee Barnett) (b. 16th June 1942 d. 13th August 2018) is survived by her husband David and two sons, Arthur and Robert, and a daughter Angela and ‘many grandchildren.’)
(c) 2018 and 2019 Patrick Chaplin
All images: PC/DW Archive. Used with permission.