Haupai Puha and Mary-Anne Teinaki became the seventh and eighth players to book their spots at the 2024 Lakeside WDF World Championships when they emerged triumphant at this past weekend's Gold-ranked New Zealand Open.
Puha proved the pick of the bunch in the 219-player strong Men's Open, winning his eighth career WDF title with victory over Darren Herewini.
'Hopes', winner of the previous two WDF events in New Zealand this year, raced into a 3-0 lead in the final with some clinical finishing.
Herewini, Men's Singles champion at the 2019 WDF World Cup, did get on the board in the fourth leg with a 16-darter but he was unable to reduce the deficit any further, Puha producing another three leg burst to wrap up a 6-1 victory with three 180s to his credit and a 91.43 average.
With victory, Puha has risen to third in the Men's WDF rankings and has ensured himself a spot at a third consecutive Lakeside tournament after his 2022 debut and return later this year.
Entering the tournament as top seed, Puha was a largely convincing winner in the earlier rounds. He was pushed closest in the Last 64, where he edged out Josh Walters 4-3, and then when he defeated Brian Corbett 5-3 in the semi-finals.
For Herewini, meanwhile, he'd beaten the likes of Craig Ross, Warren Taylor and Australian No.1 Peter Machin to reach his first WDF final in more than three years.
The Women's New Zealand Open was the third Gold-ranked event on the 2023 WDF Calendar and it yielded a third guaranteed Lakeside debutant next year.
The pair had met earlier this year at the Canterbury Classic and on that occasion Mitchell ran out a 4-1 winner. She made a similarly strong start here, building on her prior victories over Mihi Awatere and Nicole Regnaud to race into an early 2-0 lead.
Her scoring then dipped though and the greater consistency of Teinaki, who'd beaten compatriots Shar Maru-Habib, Wendy Harper and Desi Mercer to make the final, saw the Kiwi overturn the deficit and go 4-2 up.
Teinaki had darts to win it 5-2 but was unable to convert, with Mitchell digging deep to level the scores at 4-4 and force a last-leg decider. On that occasion, Teinaki was able to get over the line, pinning double 12 at the fifth time of asking to seal an emotional triumph.