Interview: Mike Harris and Ian Tetley at the Scottish Curling Championships

Team Brewster
Mike Harris with Team Brewster (photo: Tom Brydone (facebook.com/brydoneimages)

The Roaring Game Blog sat down with Mike Harris and Ian Tetley, the Canadian coaches of Teams Brewster and Murdoch respectively, to talk about the Scottish Championships and curling in the country – now and in future – more generally.

Mike Harris is an Olympic silver medallist (1998), and has since worked in curling commentary for CBC/Rogers/Sportsnet, as well as being heavily invested in another sport, golf.

Ian Tetley, meanwhile, is a three-time Brier and World champion (1985, 1990, 1998), having played alongside such legends as Al Hackner, Ed Werenich and Wayne Middaugh – and, indeed, Mike Harris.

As to how they got involved with the teams they now coach, both have known the skips – Tom Brewster and David Murdoch – for years, but it is only this season they’ve developed a more formal relationship.

Harris said: “I got a call from Tom [Brewster] towards the end of last season. I said no initially, because I was still playing a bit and I do commentary for Canadian TV.

“But I ran into him in the first Slam [this season] in Newfoundland [the Tour Challenge]. He said he was still interested, I gave him the dates I could do, and they said great.”

As for Tetley and Murdoch, it was a meeting in September 2014 at the Stu Sells event in Oakville and an invitation to dinner that sparked things off.

Tetley said: “I suggested to them then, if they ever needed someone to work with them or consult, I’d be interested.

“So in July [2015] Dave gave me a call and said ‘here’s the programme, here’s what’s going on, and am I interested’. I took a few days, talked to my wife, and it came to fruition.”

D Murdoch
David Murdoch (photo: Tom Brydone)

We spoke shortly after Brewster’s 8-2 win over Murdoch in the round robin – a precursor to this afternoon’s final if you like – where Murdoch found himself 4-0 down after two ends.

“Dave stuck his neck out a bit in the first end and he gets burned,” Tetley said.

“When you give up two in the first end, you’ve got to shake it off, be patient and work it back, but he stuck his neck out again and got burned again.”

Harris added: “We didn’t actually take that much of a risk. If you’re going to call aggressive shots, you’ve got to make them all.

“Second end, they didn’t make the last three or four shots, and we stole two. We look to take the positives out of this, and Dave’s guys will say, ‘how can we fix this?'”

Murdoch’s rink seems to have learned from the ‘teachable moments’, as Tetley calls them, and have been on dominant form since the round robin, dispatching Team Smith 9-2 in the tiebreaker, Team Mouat 8-3 in the 3v4 game and Team Bryce 7-2 in the semi-final.

But both Harris and Tetley have been impressed with the standard of the young Scottish teams in Perth this week.

Harris said: “They play with a lot of risk – you need to temper that. But when we were 19, 20 years old, we did the same thing – but you try and learn from the top skips.

“Patience is a big part of being a good skip and against the really good teams it tends to bite you if you’re not. But they’re impressive.”

Scottish curling is ‘in a good place right now’, Tetley said, adding: “It’s nice to know there are some good young teams in the pipeline that will replace the Daves and Toms when they get long in the tooth… unless Glenn Howard is the benchmark!”

Harris also made the point that it’s a positive for the young teams to be playing against elite opposition early.

“We don’t have that very often in Canada,” he said. “We had a bit of an exception with Dunstone this year making the Manitoba final… but there aren’t too many junior teams in Ontario really putting themselves out there like Dunstone does.

“I like seeing teams like Mouat coming over and making the semis in Gatineau, a big World Curling Tour event, an impressive performance from someone we’d never seen before.”

The support system, for elite teams and younger ones alike, is ‘second to none’, Harris added.

“[Curling Canada] can’t manage teams the way [the Royal Caledonian Curling Club] does, there’s just too many teams, so they can’t possibly provide everything the teams here have access to.

“I think it’s a great advantage for them.”

B Mouat
Bruce Mouat, whose young team impressed in Perth (photo: Tom Brydone)

I moved on to the ‘million dollar question(s)’: what separates the top Canadian teams from Brewster and Murdoch (and the young teams coming through), and what can the Scots do to close the gap?

Experience is one thing, Harris said, but consistency is huge: “On your bad days, you need to be pretty damn good.

“The top guys… when they’re not at their best they still find ways to win. That’s an intangible, it’s hard to coach that.”

That, and strategy, as – in Tetley’s words – Brewster and Murdoch’s rinks ‘technically throw as well as anyone in the world’.

He added: “Mike and I grew up in the era of Al Hackners and Ed Werenichs, Russ Howards… these guys were all excellent students of the game.

“We grew with the game and you learned how to make the shots. I don’t think Scotland had that same sort of tutelage.

“[For us] that was a training ground that was second to none.”

Harris said that you might think the best teams make all their shots, but they don’t.

“But because they make good decisions, they don’t have to make everything,” he said. “You make poor decisions, you have to throw 100 per cent. You don’t want to have to do that!

“Technically, throwing and sweeping, there’s nothing separating our guys from the Canadians teams – I’d argue they throw it better actually.

“There’s no lack of preparation. So strategy and consistency are the two key factors I think.”

Both Harris and Tetley stress that it’s down to the placing of shots, angles and knowing how to err on the right side – and not just the skips.

“Sweepers [need to know] what would be a good plan B,” Harris said.

“Is it better to bump it four inches or stop four inches short of the rock? The top teams don’t make those mistakes.”

After the Scottish Championships, what next for Harris, Tetley and their teams? For one of them, there will be the Worlds in Switzerland in April of course.

“I haven’t really discussed that with my guys, but I hope they like what I’m doing,” Harris said.

“I’d like to work through to the next Olympic cycle – trying to get to Korea, that’s both our mindsets.”

Tetley is looking forward to the St Gallen Masters event in April, and added: “I would love to work with these guys through the next Olympic cycle.

“They’ve had a great mindset the last few months, so I like where they’re going.”

Finally, I asked what they enjoy about Scotland itself.

“We got in a game of golf on Friday, and might squeeze in another before we go home,” Harris said.

“In all my years as a curler I never even played a bonspiel here. Getting to see a new part of the world is one of the great things about curling.”

For Tetley, there is the odd side-effect of being in Scotland.

He said: “I love the culture and the local food, and I always try to eat that… look at the size of me!”

Cue laughter.

“The last time I was here was 1985 for the Worlds in Glasgow,” he added, “and an event in Aberdeen later that year.

“You’ve got a gorgeous country here and I want to see more of it.”

***

Who will come out on top between Brewster and Murdoch, Harris and Tetley, in the crunch match?

Follow the Scottish Curling Championships men’s final in Perth from 4pm shot-by-shot here

 

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