Doncaster woman's fight back to to stardom after devastating injury

Rachel Brooks
Rachel Brooks

As a keen and diverse sportswoman, Rachel Brooks was in despair when a severe leg injury put paid to her active outdoor life.

As a keen and diverse sportswoman, Rachel Brooks was in despair when a severe leg injury put paid to her active outdoor life.

Rachel and Tony Brooks

Rachel and Tony Brooks

The high achiever and mum of two who loved marathon running, horse-riding and tae-kwo-do, snapped her Achilles tendon 10 years ago, twice.

It was a devastating blow. But five years later, by introducing Rachel to the competitive world of darts, husband Tony helped to unleash a powerful new talent.

At 55, Rachel has won international title after title, recently lifted the Gold Cup while representing Yorkshire with young Doncastrian partner Beau Greaves, and is Yorkshire Ladies’ Captain for the next season, counting current world number one Lorraine Winstanley among her team members.

This came after gaining the highest ladies’ average for the season playing county darts in the premier division.

Currently she is the only woman undertaking the PDC Challenge Tour, and has lifted her averages considerably during the tournaments.

Darts proved a lifeline, said Rachel, who, even now, wells up as she recalls how she suffered at the realisation of the impact of her injury.

“I’m a farmer’s daughter . I still farm and I love being outdoors and around animals,” she said.

“Riding was my first sport then I got in to running and athletics. I got my black belt in tae kwon do and actually wanted to teach it, and was planning to do the London Marathon at 50, but then I did my tendon, and it was a bad injury. It went again when I was in recovery and I knew that was it.

“I was in such a dark place. I’m in tears now just talking about it.

“You don’t know what’s around the corner in life....it can all change in an instant. I found it hard to deal with.

“The horses had to go. It was all so difficult.

“My husband is a darts player and he started taking me with him and introduced me to darts. He’s such a special person to put up with me. I’d go in with him then gradually started to fill in if they were short of a player. I found I could do it.

“So really it all started at the Cross Keys in Wroot, the village where we live. It’s a lovely little pub.”

After a couple of years in local leagues Rachel ventured further, soon notching up wins across Europe. She spent five successful years on the BDO circuit, qualifying for the Lakeside World Championships each year.

She has been sponsored throughout by Shot Darts of New Zealand, who have just renewed her contract.

Rachel qualified for the Gold cup at her first attempt. “I was representing Yorkshire but not even in the Yorkshire team,” she laughs.

“I think the Czech Open was my first title. I met Deta Hedman and went on to beat her. I thought ‘wow’! It was fun for a while, then it took over a bit with all the travel and hotel rooms. I started to miss the animals and outdoors.

“For someone who’s been more at home with animals than people, to be among thousands of people, in bright lights, on television even, it’s a huge change.

“But it’s great and I don’t get nerves. I love it. Although I’ve never watched myself on TV, ever.

“Pressure seems to spur me on. Darts just seems to be something I’m good at.

“I got to the final of the World Masters and the semi-final the year after, but it seemed to happen naturally. I do get hammered sometimes in the PDC (Professional Darts Challenge Tour) but I also know there are some who don’t want to play me.

“As the only woman, it’s quite funny when you can see guys thinking, oh it’s just a girl...then I beat them! I can travel each time from home and I’m really enjoying it.

“But I have to focus more now to fully develop and improve. It is essential to train and practice.

“I need to approach it differently, with hard work and determination.

“It’s a big deal to me as a country girl, getting on aeroplanes and jetting off on my own as Tony has to look after the farm. My farming talk causes a few laughs out on the circuit.

“I’ve a busy month in September with the World Pro playoffs and the World Masters at the Spa in Bridlington. Also it’s the start of the county season with our first game at home to Warwickshire on the 15th.

“When I won the Gold Cup with Beau it was only the second time we’d played together. She is a fantastic talent. We need more girls coming up. It would be great to see darts used in schools, as it’s also great for maths skills.

“Anyone can play or follow darts. It needs a revival.

“I’m starting to feel a real part of it all now. I know my way around, and top players such as Martin Adams and Andy Fordon and many others have been so helpful...always willing to advise.

“I’ve a lot to thank Tony for though. He put the feathers in my wings. We are both so competitive, and soul mates.”