Interviewing Josh “Rocky” Rock

Join SportsBoom’s voice of choice, Wade McElwain, as he grabs a chat with the first player to throw a televised nine-dart finish in their debut year, winner of the 2022 PDC World Youth Championship, the rising star Mr Josh “Rocky” Rock.

Josh Rock celebrating
Wade McElwain

Written by: Wade McElwain

(Senior Sports Writer)

Edited by: Louis Hobbs

(Senior Sports Writer)

Last updated: 2023-12-22

8 minutes read

The best time of the year

Getting ready for the PDC, Josh says he’s “practising every day [for] one or two hours a day, just to get the arm in and prep, make sure everything's going nice and smoothly.”

“I'm feeling very good,” he updates us on the state of play, “I've hit a bit of form coming into the back end of the year after getting to the quarter-final of the Grand Slam, so I’m happy with where my game’s going.”

When it comes to preparing mentally, Josh keeps it simple. “I just [take] every game, one game at a time, one leg at a time. So just make sure everything counts.”

It’s all focus and practice for this rising star until his first match on December 23rd. “I don't fly to the 20th, so I'll just be practising up until then,” he says, before describing how great it feels to see Sky Sports call “Dartsmas” the “best time of the year” on social media.

Josh isn’t one to forget family in all the Ally Pally hubbub though. “I'll be home the day after I play. So all being well, I'll be home for Christmas.”

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If you start thinking about that, then you're screwed”

Strategy talk

“I listen to music because it just settles me down and keeps me focused,” Josh reveals his go-to method to get in the right headspace for a match.

When asked how else he builds up to these big games, Josh gives a very clear-cut answer, “[I use] the same training routine every time I practice. There's no point in changing. You just put yourself under pressure if you try and change.”

“I've used the same weight of darts since I was 16,” he continues. “24-gram darts. I've never changed and I probably never will.”

“If you start thinking about that, then you're screwed,” he says bluntly, when asked if he ever doubts his dart choice mid-game.

Josh’s Spartan-like mental focus is nothing but solid it seems. “I just keep myself to myself and focus, and don't focus [on] anything around you. That's the way I am, every single day I'll just go in, just be myself, and just get on with it.”

Going pro

“Winning the tour card was more special because to be a professional darts player is everybody's dream,” Josh replies, musing on going pro and winning the World Youths.

Like many pros, Josh avoids the pressure of managing his social media. “My fiance runs all my social media accounts, which I'm thankful for so I don't have to listen to it all. She's very good at what she does.”

“I'm here to enjoy my experience as a professional,” he continues, dismissing any idea of making lots of noise on social media. “To be on the Ally Pally stage is phenomenal, so we'll just see what happens.”

And it really is all focus for Josh when Ally Pally is concerned…

“You can get tied into being very frustrated very quick,” he explains of the emotions of the spotlight. “You know what you're there for. Everybody who's there wants to be a world champion. It’s amazing… but at the same time, it's a frustrating feeling because you know can do better. But that’s the pressure of being a world champion, or wanting to be a world champion.”

Even the crowd don’t faze this pro, it seems. “I actually don't really hear the crowd when I play. The only time you really hear the crowd is if the crowd's low and then one or two people start whistling, that's when you hear it. Seeing the crowds roar and bouncing – you don't hear it.”

As for pre-game rituals, Josh tries to stay as chill as possible. “There's an area for us to practice so I just go up and practice for half an hour.”

“I wouldn't stay there solidly,” he continues. “I would bits and pieces go up and throw, sit down, go up and throw, sit down, talk to [my] family and friends and manager.”
 

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It's usually kept hush-hush between them two”

Superstitions, banter, wardrobes and idols

“I'm not superstitious about what I eat,” Josh explains. “There's a lot of people [who] eat pasta [or] steak before they play, but I just eat whatever I want.”

He goes on to describe the myriad superstitions of his fellow pros, “The way they stand up to the board, what they eat before, how many bottles of water they drink before they play. Everybody's just so different. But I have none of that.”

Sure, Josh admits, you could mess with your opponents, but “that’s being cheeky”, he laughs. “I wouldn’t go as far as being naughty doing that.”

“It's usually kept hush-hush between them two,” Josh reveals how any friendly banter plays out behind the scenes.

Rocky had a lot to say about the dress code expected of him, but mostly that “If I could get away with [it], I’d be wearing shorts all the time. You have to wear at least dressy trousers. Your shoes can only be black, grey, brown or navy, as long as there's no white showing through.”

“It's very, very weird… but it was very quick to get used to,” he explains, speaking of becoming friends with his idol, Gary Anderson.

The novelty has been overwritten by a competitive streak though, it seems. “When I first got my tour card I walked into that room and I just went, ‘Oh my god, there's Michael Van Gerwen, there's Gary Anderson [and] Peter Wright!’”, Josh remembers. “But now I just look out and see opponents.”

Despite being on friendly terms though, Josh tells of a select “wee pack” of close friends who share the same manager and hang out in their downtime, featuring “Rob Cross, Scott Williams, and John O’Shea”.

Though he’s not part of Josh’s wolf pack, his childhood idol Gary Anderson is also a close connection to the group, and something of a mentor to the rising star. “There's times when he says ‘Get it done Josh’. And then he just talks to me and all that.”

Musical motivation and post-match moods

“I grew up listening to it. It's like a rocking song,” Josh answers, when asked about his walk-on music. “I tried a [new] walk-on song back in March and I didn’t like it. I just tried it once and I went no.”

“As soon as I hear my music, I know just focus and then obviously dance with the crowd with my tune,” he continues, speaking of the song’s focusing power for him.

When it comes to musical taste, Josh professes an eclectic range. “I listen to eighties, nineties, new music. I listen to all that. I have no one specific music I listen to at all.” Though, it seems not everything makes the cut, as he’s quick to admit that “I wouldn't listen to rock music. That’s not me, it’s just not my type of music.”

Reflecting on the post-match vibe, Josh shows his professional colours…

“If you get beat, you shake the opponent’s hand and say well done, you walk off and then you do your own bit. You have to be professional about it,” he says stoically, before mentioning that he will often study footage of matches he’s lost, especially.

“I don't do it when I win because you don't learn from winning, you learn more from losing,” he says.

“[In] the grand slam quarter-final against James Way, it took me nearly 30 seconds just to throw my first dart,” Josh goes on to describe one of his biggest lessons. “My heart was pumping out my chest. I was just trying to calm my heart rate down. That was the first time I experienced that before, so it was all new. But next time I know just throw, if it goes in, it goes in. If it doesn't, it doesn't. Next time just throw it and don't think about it.”

Que Sera, Sera

“If you're meant to have a cold, you're meant to have a cold,” Josh says, when asked about measures he might take to stay healthy in the competitive winter months. Having a son at school, it seems, has normalised handling illness for this young star.

When asked about his hopes and aspirations for 2024, Josh unsurprisingly says, “It'd be lovely if I won the World Championship”, then reveals his runner-up goal: “if not, that'd be top 16 next year”.

Rounding the interview off, for anyone visiting Broughshane, Northern Ireland, Josh can’t speak highly enough of The Thatch Inn, and The Top of the Town.

Wade McElwain

Wade McElwain

Wade McElwain is our Mr. NFL, a bona fide North American sports nut who knows about NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA plus MMA boxing and more. Originally from Canada, Wade is also an international award-winning stand-up comedian; host of numerous TV game shows; and a TV producer & writer. He also runs NFL in London-the largest NFL fan group in Europe, and has hosted NFL events at Wembley and around the world. Yes, he lives alone and does nothing but watch sports.

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