Big Interview: Turning off the Power changed Rob’s world
On January 1, 2018, Rob Cross’s life changed forever.
It was the night that marked the 28-year-old father-of-three’s rise from electrician to world darts champion.
And his triumph came at the first attempt, retiring the greatest man to ever step up to the oche in the process.
It really is the stuff of the dreams, perhaps the greatest rags-to-riches sporting story of modern history and it is no wonder Cross, who turned professional a mere 11 months before his victory at Alexandra Palace, has to pinch himself every once in a while.
Things may not have gone to plan for him this time around, being beaten by world number 90 Luke Humphries in the fourth round, but that win last year against Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor was always going to be almost impossible to live up to.
Cross insists he was unaware of what it all meant when he won, it understandably all felt like a whirlwind.
But the added attention – and the expectation to continually perform at a high level – is something, slowly but surely, he has grown comfortable with.
“When I won it, I didn’t realise what it meant to be a world champion – and what it took to be a world champion,” said Cross.
“It was weird because Phil said when I beat him, ‘You’ll be busy now and good luck’.
“He obviously knew everything about it, but at the same time, it’s been fantastic to do everything – play all the tournaments.
“It’s been a big eye-opener, in fairness, and I’ve really enjoyed it.
“There’s a lot more to do. Life’s changed drastically since winning.
“It’s taken a lot of getting used to, but I’m feeling comfortable with it all now.
“With the media and everything that goes on, I’m used to it now.”
Cross, whose nickname ‘Voltage’ pays homage to his former profession, beat 16-time champion Taylor 7-2, sealing a cheque for £400,000.
And there was poetic justice to it all as it came 28 years after a virtually-unknown Taylor won his debut competition with a 6-1 victory over Eric Bristow.
Averaging 107.67, the third highest in the history of the final, and hitting 11 180s, Cross was just too hot to handle.
Taylor was full of praise for Cross, who he tipped to go on and rival Michael van Gerwen – the man Cross beat in the semis – at the top of the game.
On claiming the crown with such triumphs over Taylor and Van Gerwen, Cross said: “They’re two of the best players who’ve ever lived, with one, Phil, being the best player who has ever lived.
“To win it over the pair of them was a great feeling and a great achievement.
“But now it’s time to kick on.”
And that last sentence, while revelling in that achievement, shows Cross has the hunger to become a multiple-time world champion.
He does not just want to be one and done.
Since that success, he has reached the quarter-finals of The Masters, the quarters of the UK Open, the quarters of the European Championship, and the semis of Premier League Darts.
Events such as the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix saw him make early exits, before kicking off 2019 with a fourth-round exit as the defending world champion.
And Cross, who says it is good to play with nerves, was rather candid when assessing how he has fared over the past several months.
“I’ve not achieved what I wanted to, in fairness,” he said. “I actually feel that I’ve underperformed in certain ways.
“With that, it’s all about progression now.
“I’ve not achieved what I wanted to achieve and not played how I wanted to play in some of the tournaments.
“It’s been tough in that way, but I feel comfortable now.
“It’s been demanding and everything, but I’ll be better for it. I’ll know what’s coming.”
And when asked if there is now a set target in mind, Cross added: “I never sort of set myself any targets.
“Every weekend, you want to win. If it doesn’t work out that way, it doesn’t work out that way.”
Despite recent competitions not going his way, Cross firmly believes that he will continue to be a top performer, as he ‘can do anything in the game’ if he puts the required effort in – and that immense work-rate is why his hero Taylor was so successful.
“Phil’s work ethic was great. I need to work as hard as what he did, to try to succeed and achieve my goals,” said Cross. “That work ethic is very important.
“I need to make sure that’s right and I put in the maximum effort, which I can.
“As long as I get that right, I believe I can do anything in the game.”
Cross was the 10th player to win the World Championship at the first time of asking. He is said to have won £7 in a pub tournament 18 months prior.
Seigo Asada, Michael Smith (against whom he survived two match darts), John Henderson and Dimitri van Bergh were those he beat before his massive wins over Van Gerwen and Taylor.
And almost everything in his life is different now.
When he was an electrician, he spent his days being physical – and now he has to be careful not to do too much ahead of competitions.
The money he earns, obviously, is at a completely different level too.
But the one constant is his family – and he has eternally grateful that he can provide a better life for wife Georgia and daughters Layton, Imogen and
“It’s a life-changing thing. It’s been a totally different life,” added Cross. “I was used to being physical, and now I can’t do a lot.
“It’s been totally different but it’s for a good thing. I can offer the family better things and everything now, and that’s always a positive.
“I want to give them a better life, and darts provides that.
“If you’re playing well, you reap the rewards.”