SHAUN ‘NINE DART’ GREATBATCH

Shaun Greatbatch passed away on 6th June 2022.

Shaun (pictured) was best known for being the first man to hit a nine-darter on ‘live’ TV.

Shaun’s wife, Barbara Lee broke the news on Twitter. She wrote:

“With a heavy heart and deep sorrow, I’m letting you know of the death of my dearest husband Shaun, yesterday afternoon, he was the most amazing, kind, caring, loving, funny best friend, father and grandfather you could ask for, and will be heartbrokenly missed by us all.”

Peter Melton of England Darts, posted

‘On behalf of the Directors, Executive and the current England players I am sad to report that former England International Shaun Greatbatch has sadly passed away after a long battle with cancer.

Shaun represented England on 13 occasions winning 9 times, he also played in the Europe Cup once for England. Shaun will always be in the darts record books as he was the first ever dart player to record a nine dart leg live on TV, which happened in the final of the Dutch Open which he went on to win.

As well as his time with England I also shared many years with him in Cambridgeshire, he had a natural talent for the game which meant he could take long breaks from the game, usually in the summer when he could usually by found fishing, but come the start of another darts season it was like seeing someone flick a switch as all his talent on the board returned instantly and he was a match for anyone.

It has been a terrible time for the family as only a few weeks ago, his Mum Sandra also passed away, so our thoughts are with his wife Barbara, his son Tom, his Dad, Barry, and his sister Sara and the family at this very sad time. It was a pleasure to have known him, RIP Shaun.’

Former world no.1 Steve Beaton added:

“So sad to hear the awful news that Shaun Greatbatch has passed away at only 52. My deepest condolences to all his family and friends he was lovely guy. RIP Shaun.”

Back in early 2010 I visited Shaun at his home at Lakenheath and wrote an article about him which I published in one of the very first issues of my global publication Dr. Darts’ Newsletter, Issue #8 – October 2010. As my tribute to Shaun, I reproduce that article here with some minor amendments.

It was Sunday 3rd February 2002. The occasion was the Dutch Open; the venue the Koningshof Hotel, Veldhoven, Holland.  Fans were watching the Final where two relatively unknown Englishmen, Steve Coote and Shaun Greatbatch, were fighting for the title. There were 5,000 spectators and the match was being broadcast live by Dutch TV station SBS6.

It was the second set, third leg. Steve Coote had won the first set 3-0 but Shaun was 2-0 up in the second. When Shaun started the third leg with back-to-back 180s the crowd fell silent.  He then struck his seventh treble 20, then treble 15 and finally double 18!  As referee Steve Nicholas calmly announced ‘Game shot’ the audience went mad and continued to applaud and cheer Shaun for a full five minutes or more.

After the raucous crowd had calmed down, the game was resumed and Shaun went on to take the Dutch Open title 4-2 but by then he had already carved his name forever into the history books.

BE UNDER NO ILLUSION. HISTORY WAS MADE THAT DAY. SHAUN HAD ACHIEVED THE FIRST-EVER PERFECT NINE-DART GAME ON ‘LIVE’ TV.

But what was his reward for this historic achievement? £100,000? No. £50,000? No. Some years later Shaun told me

“I didn’t win any money for hitting the nine-darter, although after the event someone phoned in and offered two thousand Euros.” 

Shaun also made front-page news in Darts World magazine (pictured above) and thereafter the Dutch fans in particular dubbed him ‘Nine Dart’.

Shaun was born in Newmarket, Cambridgeshire, England on 13th July 1969 the son of Barry and Sandra Greatbatch both of whom played top-level darts. Shaun told me, “I became interested in darts through my mother playing and watching it on TV.” A Norfolk County player by the time he was 15 years old, Shaun soon moved to the Cambridgeshire team and only retired from serving that county at the end of the 2010/11 season.

His major breakthrough was playing for England in 1997 and one of his best-ever games “the first five sets of the Lakeside semi-final in 2006 against Jelle Klassen.” Shaun also remembered with pride, his performance at the 2001 Lakeside World Championships play-offs where he told me he was ‘awesome’ throughout, beating Gary Anderson in the play-off final.  However, his form eluded him in the first round of the World Championships proper where he was beaten 3-0 by Ted ‘The Count’ Hankey. (That was also the match that featured an interruption by the first-ever streaker at Lakeside.)

On 13th June 2008 Shaun was diagnosed with myeloma (bone cancer). He told me, “It was horrendous.” A long period of treatment has seen Shaun lose four and half inches in height (from 6’ 5 ½” to 6’ 1”). At the Lakeside World Championships in 2009 a guard of honour of fellow darts players lined the route to the Lakeside stage as Shaun came out to play his match. Shaun said, “It was very emotional for me.”  The myeloma is now controlled but he has to undergo blood tests every three months to monitor his condition.

On Sunday 9th May 2010 Shaun played his last match for Cambridgeshire (against my county, Essex) and he did not throw a dart since; not even socially. When I asked Shaun if he had any regrets he replied

“I was never 100% committed to darts. I was never one to prepare for matches. I preferred the social side of the darts; a side that got progressively worse once I met Bob Taylor!”’

Shaun, who married the top lady darts player Barbara Lee in July 2009, continued to work part-time as a Training and Safety Co-Ordinator for SCL (a local company owned by Scottish darts international Trevor Nurse). The rest of the time, when not relaxing with Barbara, Shaun pursued his other main passion: fishing.

Shaun will always be remembered as a great darts player but particularly, as the man who hit the first-ever perfect nine-dart game on ‘live’ TV.

For that achievement alone he has etched his name into darts history. 

© Text and original images copyright Patrick Chaplin

September 2022

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