'I treated myself to a JCB!' - Ex-world champion Rob Cross on lifestyle change after becoming darting millionaire
Footballers spend their fortunes on fast cars and expensive designer clothes, yet the plaything of choice for one of the world's top darts players is a little less lavish, after former world champion Rob Cross told us he treated himself to a sparkling new JCB digger.
Cross shocked the darting world as he beat Michael van Gerwen in the semi-finals and Phil Taylor in the final to claim the 2018 World Championship title and he backed that up by winning the World Matchplay title in Blackpool in July, with his prize money over the last couple of years eclipsing the €1million mark.
For the former electrician who was playing on the county darts scene in the UK a couple of years ago, his success has been a life-changing experience for his family, as he told Independent.ie in an exclusive interview at an event to promote the Paddy Power Champions League of Darts in Leicester later this month.
"Darts is a very different sport compared to what it was a few years ago and the impact my success has had on my family has been incredible," said Cross, who is one of the favourites to win the PDC World Grand Prix title at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin this week.
"I have been able to buy a house with a swimming pool and everything we do now is completely transformed compared to what it was like when I was an electrician.
"We have had a few nice breaks away in the last year that we might not have been able to go on and we moved into a new house last December that is probably a bit bigger than I would have been dreaming about a couple of years ago.
"Having a house with seven-and-a-half acres of land and a swimming pool wasn't really on my agenda when in my old job and while I haven't spent too much money on cars or any other expensive gadgets, I did treat myself to a JCB digger.
"There was a lot of lifting we needed to do at the new house and I didn't want to injure myself, so I thought it was a wise investment to buy a JCB! It was cheaper than hiring it every week so why not.
"Winning the worlds changed everything for me and my family. There were days when I woke up over the last 18 months and it didn't feel real. I only played four weekends a year on the Challenger tour before I won the worlds and then suddenly there were new commitments in different cities all over the place and it threw me off. I wasn't practising like I used to because I was struggling to find the time to fit it all in and we needed to change a few things this year.
"Now, playing on the PDC tour feels normal and that is helping me play my best darts again. Every tournament I played last year was a new experience for me and that put me at a disadvantage against my opponents who were all used to playing on these big stages.
"Hopefully my story shows that if you work hard, you can get what you want in this world. I remember saying to my Mum when I was about 14 or 15, that I wanted to be a professional dart player. She gave me a funny look at the time, but that concern seems to have disappeared now.
"Darts is a proper job now. There are a lot of people earning some very good money playing this game and we have to thank the PDC and all the sponsors of our tournaments for backing us."
Cross admits he was quaking in his boots when he played in front of an Irish audience for the first time last year and he gets his campaign at World Grand Prix in Dublin underway on Monday night.
"The first night I played in the Premier League was massive for me and it was in Dublin, in front of a crowd that was just amazing," added Cross.
"I was just getting used to playing on the big stages in front of huge crowds, but that night in Ireland was one that I will never forget. The noise was just deafening and my bones were shaking before I threw my first dart!
"All of the darts players love going to Dublin and I can't wait to play in front of an Irish crowd again at the Grand Prix."