Joe Cullen has admitted that this year’s Masters having no impact on the Premier League is a step in the right direction.

Wyke ace Cullen won the tournament in 2022, as did Chris Dobey last year, with both getting selected by the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) for the Premier League immediately afterwards, when they were unlikely to be in the eight-man line-up otherwise.

Given the tournament uses the matchplay, non-set format he prefers, Cullen will fancy his chances of regaining his Masters title, starting in the first round against young Northern Irishman Josh Rock tomorrow night.

But he is not fussed that this time, it cannot lead to a place in the Premier League, with the line-up already selected at the start of last month ahead of the tournament starting next week.

He explained: “I think the PDC have got it right with the Premier League announcement this year, both in terms of timing and who’s involved in the line up.

“Last year was a bit of a shambles from the PDC to be honest, as there was so much uncertainty.

“You had six lads who basically knew they were going to be in, but the other two were very much selected on the day of the announcement.

“That meant Chris 12 months ago, and me in 2022, only had a few days to get ready for a tournament that lasts for pretty much a third of the year and takes up a lot of your life.

“For me, all eight players should know well in advance.”

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Joe Cullen found it tough going in this thumping Premier League defeat to Michael van Gerwen in Brighton back in 2022.Joe Cullen found it tough going in this thumping Premier League defeat to Michael van Gerwen in Brighton back in 2022. (Image: PDC.)

Cullen will be against an unfamiliar opponent tomorrow night, at the oche at least, at the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes, as he and Rock face off for the right to take on Daryl Gurney, who is a late replacement for Gerwyn Price, in the last-16 on Saturday.

Price's withdrawal from the tournament for family reasons was confirmed earlier today.

But any match with Gurney is not Cullen's focus for now, and the Bradford star was keen to concentrate on the young talent in front of him.

He said: “Josh has had his tour card for two years now but I’ve never played against him.

“We’ve never even been close to meeting in a draw either which is strange.

“But he’s someone I speak to regularly, as with us both being Man United fans, we talk about football a lot together.

“I’m glad I’m playing him seventh out of the eight games on Friday night as well.

“I prefer my games being on a bit later, as you get more time to settle in and you don’t have to go to the venue as early.

“I’ll arrive more like 5:30pm, compared to 3pm if I was on first, so I can get food and relax a bit before playing.”

Rock is no longer the big young thing everyone is talking about in darts, after a 16-year-old Luke Littler reached the world final last month and has since won the Bahrain Masters against the cream of the crop.

There could soon be another young talent to watch out for, in Cullen’s 15-year-old son Travis.

The proud father said: “Travis is part of the JDC, which is the junior version of the PDC essentially.

“Luke actually played on it all of last year before making his name at the Worlds and he mentioned how much it had helped him.

“I felt Travis was a bit young when he told me he wanted to join it in 2022, so 2023 was his first year on the JDC and he’s earned of the 32 tour cards for 2024.

“He’ll play 16 tournaments this year, including the JDC Worlds in Gibraltar.

“There’s also the Super 16 (youth tournament) final this weekend at the Masters, and one of the lads in that (Joseph Westby) actually beat Travis 6-5 in a tight Q School final last month.”