Season review Q&As – part two

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Team Smith, Edinburgh International winners (photo: twitter.com/VikKjell/status/663401877388795906)

Following on from part one of my season review Q&As with Scottish/British teams, here are five more teams’ reflections on 2015-16.

Thanks to Eve Muirhead, David Murdoch, Katie Murray, Jamie Fletcher and Kyle Smith for providing me with the answers.

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Team Muirhead (Eve Muirhead, Anna Sloan, Vicki Adams, Sarah Reid)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: We lost Anna at the end of the season due to injury which was a massive loss to our team. She is making a speedy recovery and will be back stronger. Looking back at the season I feel we played well in several events. Silver medal at the Europeans was great and we played well enough to win it. The new Perth ladies event was great – fantastic ice conditions and we won it with some great play. Following that the Players Championships win. This is the pinnacle of Grand Slam events and you could argue it’s a better field than Worlds and Olympics as it’s the top 10 teams in the world… mainly Canadian.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: I love the Players Championship in Toronto. It’s the third time it’s been held there and it’s fantastic. It is played in the old Maple Leaf Gardens arena, five minutes walk from downtown (yes, great shopping!!!) and also next door to the hotel. The atmosphere is electric, crowds great and it’s a very social event with all the other teams.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: I think the shot for me would be the draw against five in the first end of the Players Championship final v Team Jones. It was crucial it was made to have a chance of victory. Skips get the glory when you make it but unfortunately the slack when you miss!

Q: Anna had a stint in the commentary box during the Perth Ladies International – which of her team-mates would be best at following in her footsteps and getting behind the mic?
A: Good question… I think Vicki would be the best. She is the curling knowledge bomb! If you have a question regarding any player, tournament etc, she knows the answer!

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: Still finishing up last season really. Briefly looked at a possible schedule but all the planning is still to come in the next few weeks. [Since Eve replied, Team Muirhead announced the departures of Sarah Reid and coach David Hay ahead of next season.]

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Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: We had such a hugely successful season on tour with four World Curling Tour wins and other great results in various events, but I would say our performances at the European Masters would rank highest.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: We really enjoyed the Grand Slams this year which we played well in and I would say the Players Championship had the best atmosphere. It was played in the old Maple Leaf Gardens which is in the heart of downtown Toronto. We had a great week on ice, making the semi-finals, it was a lot of fun and the crowds were fantastic.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: Well we played 109 games this year so I’m sure there are a bunch to choose from every player but we think a shot to win an event is always special. We had a tricky back line tap back and lie in an extra end to beat Team Canada’s Pat Simmons at the Karuizawa International in Japan. It was a full team effort, with a big sweep from Scotty… It made us millionaires!! Shame about the currency though…

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: I was going to say ‘we’ but actually Scott is to blame for hitting a large deer and almost writing off our rental van in Nova Scotia, Canada. There was a lot of damage but I’m told it could have been worse but for Scott’s quick reaction. The deer I’m sure blames Scott, we blame Scott… but he blames it on Ian Tetley!!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: We would probably go with Marc Kennedy. The guy is a total pro on and off the ice and has won everything in the game.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: We are currently detailing next season’s schedule. There is a huge amount of work to be put in and every day has to have a detailed plan so we can continue to learn and improve as a team. We really want to push the boundaries next season so we can achieve our goals.

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Team Murray (Katie Murray, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: Throughout the season I feel that we played well as a team, with good results in the Asham Slam and a second place finish at the Scottish Juniors. I feel the Glynhill Ladies was our best team performance. We may not have qualified for the later stages of the competition but we had some good solid wins over tough opposition and learned a lot from playing against teams like Anna Sidorova’s.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The event that I enjoyed most this season would be the EJCT in Thun. It’s always nice to compete abroad against teams outwith the Scottish circuit.

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Sophie Jackson – she was a member of Team Murray for four years before taking on her own team. I know how she plays and she can easily fit into any position on the team.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: The World Mixed will be my only competition of next season as I am taking a year out to focus on my career. I will miss the girls and the game a lot, but I wish them the best with their new teams for next season.

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Team Pougher (James Pougher, Rhys Phillips, Gary Coombs, Jamie Fletcher, Simon Pougher)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: Our best team performance probably came at the Edinburgh International. Despite the fact that we didn’t manage a win, we were able to keep up with some very skilled teams. It gave us a lot of confidence heading into Europeans.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: The European Curling Championships in Esbjerg was a great event. Having the A and the B Divisions so close together really helped to maintain the atmosphere, and the social area between the two rinks encouraged the teams to socialise with one another.

Q: What was your shot of the year?
A: There are quite a few contenders for this crown, but our shot of the year was the last stone we played at Europeans. Up 7-4, with hammer, in the eighth end, we were sitting second and third shot as we went to throw our last stone. The Croatian shot stone was half buried and in a good position to jam if we didn’t get to the inside. James, our skip, threw it perfectly, navigating the guard and pushing the shot stone through the house to score three, end the game, and secure our position in the B group for another year.

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Team Pougher at the Europeans in Esbjerg (photo: WCF)

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: During a game at Europeans we had just finished our between end meeting so James started to make his way to the other end while the rest of us went to set up for our first stone. Out of nowhere, we heard a huge crash and the three of us turned around to find James picking himself up off the ice, trying to figure out what had happened! We all had a good laugh at that one.

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Well, based on how badly we lost to them, and the incredible performance they had at the World Championship, the easy answer here would be Rasmus Stjerne. I think it’s also worth mentioning Radek Bohac as well, though. We played David Sik at the Edinburgh International in November – Radek is his third. No matter what we did in that game, he always found a way to put us under pressure. He was also just a pleasure to be around on and off the ice. He’d be more than welcome as a super sub on our team.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: There were several factors that went into my decision to take next season off, but I’ll still be doing whatever I can to help out off the ice. As for next season, there are still a few question marks around what line-up we’ll have for each competition, but the team that will compete at Europeans in Braehead will include Adrian Meikle. We’re still working out what our schedule will look like in the run up to Europeans, but it’s likely to include several Scottish Curling Tour events and at least one on the Curling Champions Tour.

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Team Smith (Kyle Smith, Thomas Muirhead, Kyle Waddell, Cammy Smith)
Q: At which competition do you feel you played best as a team?
A: I felt we had a really strong start to the season and had our best results then. We played our best at the European playdowns and the Edinburgh International, I felt.

Q: Which event did you enjoy most (atmosphere/socially)?
A: I think there are a lot of great events on the tour and we were lucky to play in some brilliant competitions this season. Our team had a great time in Newfoundland and Labrador at the Tour Challenge (tier 2) Grand Slam. We also thoroughly  enjoyed our experience at the European Championships! But some of our favourite events on the European tour are the Perth Masters, Swiss Cup Basel and the end of season European Masters in St Gallen. There are so many good events though – there’s not an event we play in where we don’t enjoy our curling.

Q: Name and shame time. Which team member had the most embarrassing moment this season?
A: Probably me! I managed to leave my curling stuff at home before a game at the Scottish Championships this year, so had to race back to the house to grab it to make it on time!!

Q: If you needed a ‘super sub’ from one of the teams you’ve played this season, who would it be and why?
A: Probably Jim Cotter. We played him in Canada and he is just a great player with a lot of experience that we would definitely look up to.

Q: Finally, at what stage are you regarding next season?
A: We are at the stage that we have decided to play again and are just trying to put together a schedule to give ourselves the best chance to be prepared for the Scottish Championships. We are looking at our training schedules as well to see how we can improve them from what we have done in recent seasons.

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Scottish Curling Championships 2016: Preview

Teams MacDonald and Muirhead look to retain their respective men’s and women’s titles at the Scottish Curling Championships 2016, in Perth next week.

The event (sponsored by Go Coco) takes place in Perth’s Dewars Centre on February 14-20, and involves 10 men’s and eight women’s teams.

At stake: the Scottish titles, and to right to represent Scotland in Basel, Switzerland, from April 2-10 (for the men) and in Swift Current, Canada, from March 19-27 (for the women).

Men’s championship

The teams fighting it out for the men’s title are those of Tom Brewster, Cameron Bryce, Robin Brydone, Moray Combe, Grant Hardie, Ewan MacDonald, Scott Macleod, Bruce Mouat, David Murdoch and Kyle Smith.

The holders, MacDonald, have entered fewer events than many of their rivals – their highlights being runners-up at the Braehead Open in September, semi-finalists at the Edinburgh International in November and winner of the Aberdeen City Open just last weekend, although of the teams they’ll face in Perth, only Macleod were in Aberdeen.

Like last year, where they beat Murdoch in the final, MacDonald go into this as underdogs, bizarre given they’re going for three in a row.

So who are the favourites? Going on form, it can only be Team Murdoch. They shook off a slow start to the season, reaching the GSOC Canadian Open quarter-finals in December and, later that month, winning the Karuizawa International.

Last month, they made the last four at the Perth Masters and then won the German Masters in Hamburg. Simply put, they’re the hottest Scots form-wise.

But Murdoch won’t have it easy, not least from Tom Brewster and Kyle Smith’s rinks. Brewster’s season has been somewhat up and down, but they have been runners-up at the Baden Masters (August) and Dumfries’ Lely Challenge (December), as well as winning the men’s title at the Curling Night in America event, also in December.

Smith, meanwhile, won the European playdowns to represent Scotland in Esbjerg – they had a shaky start in the playdowns, and at the Europeans themselves they fell to a W1 L4 record before winning four straight games to force a tiebreaker with Team Edin… the Swedes squeezed through that match and went on to win the title.

So just as it would be silly to dismiss MacDonald’s challenge, don’t rule out Smith – even if (or perhaps especially if) they start with a few losses. Once they’ve got momentum, they’re hard to stop.

Those teams aside, it’s a field inexperienced at the top level. Team Hardie won the first two Scottish Curling Tour events of the season, in Braehead and Dumfries, while Teams Bryce and Brydone have had success in the Asham Under-21 Slams and European Junior Curling Tour events.

But if you’re looking for a dark horse, how about Team Mouat? They started winning events in November and haven’t really stopped.

Having made the last four at the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau, beating Teams Michel and Epping (twice!) and only going out to Team Gushue, they won the OVCA Junior Superspiel in Ottawa, then the Forfar Open on the Scottish Curling Tour and Lely Challenge on the Champions Curling Tour.

It’s a season which has also seen skip Bruce Mouat win the Scottish Mixed Doubles with Gina Aitken, the team make the Perth Masters quarters before succumbing to Team Ulsrud, and just a couple of weekends ago they won the Scottish Junior Championships.

The variety of those events, at both junior and men’s levels, shows the Mouat rink can stand toe-to-toe with the big boys. So a serious challenge from them in Perth would come as no surprise.

Verdict: Murdoch’s rink have the experience and pedigree – they also have the form. But it’s a competitive field, with both established teams and hungry youngsters. Mouat in particular are capable of making the playoffs like last year… maybe even the final.

Women’s championship

Eve Muirhead’s defending champions face the rinks of Gina Aitken, Karina Aitken, Hannah Fleming, Lauren Gray, Sophie Jackson, Katie Murray and Lesley Young.

The Muirhead rink are big, big favourites. So consistent have they been over the last five years it’s now almost impossible to think of another women’s team representing Scotland at a major championship.

As if to underline the gap, while Muirhead were in Las Vegas as part of Team World at the Continental Cup, the six Scottish teams competing in the Glynhill Ladies International all missed out on the playoffs.

It’s been a satisfactory few months for Eve’s ladies. Coach Dave Hay told me in Esbjerg that he felt they were playing considerably better than at this stage last season. And many of their defeats – in the Stockholm Ladies Cup final, GSOC Canadian Open semi-finals and European Championships final, for example – have come against some of the most in-form teams in women’s curling: Homan, Jones and Sidorova.

But even if you remove form, focus and fitness from the equation… well, I have two words for you: Team Hanna.

Team Homan were the best rink in the world between September and December, but won’t be at their national championships after Hanna beat them in the Ontario Scotties final – shocks happen, and especially when it comes down to one game, the ‘big name’ doesn’t always win.

So who are the teams looking to shock Muirhead? Teams Fleming, runners-up last year, and Gray again look likeliest to push them closest.

Fleming made the semi-finals of the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in November, but otherwise the quarter-finals have been their limit – although their run to the last eight of the Bernese Ladies Cup in January was an impressive one.

Gray took a few months to really get going this season but finished runners-up to Muirhead in the European playdowns in October, won the Lely Challenge in Dumfries in December, and this last weekend finished third at the Aberdeen City Open.

Dark horses? The most impressive junior teams this season have been those of Jackson and Murray.

Murray were overall Asham Under-21 Slam winners after claiming titles in Kinross, Inverness and Lockerbie, and came fourth at the EJCT event in Thun in November, while last month they were runners-up at the Scottish Junior Championships…

…To Jackson, who also won the Braehead Junior International in September, were semi-finalists at the Kinross U21 Slam and Forfar Open, and gained international experience at the OVCA Junior Superspiel in November – more of that to come at the World Junior Championships next month of course.

Verdict: Muirhead are expected to do the business once again, although the no-second-chances final increases the chance of an upset. Gray look best placed to profit from a slip-up, while it’ll be interesting to see how Jackson and Murray manage the step up from their success at junior level.

Event coverage

The championships begin with the first men’s draw at 1pm on Sunday, February 14. For the full draw, team line-ups and (when the event has started) linescores, see the Royal Caledonian Curling Club competition page here.

The Roaring Game Blog will be in Perth throughout the week, so watch this space – and my Facebook and Twitter – for match updates, athlete reaction and more.

And there are also plans in the works for some games to be covered shot-by-shot on CurlingGeek – more on that to come.

Teams Mouat and Jackson victorious at Scottish Juniors

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Scottish Juniors winners Jackson (back) and Mouat (photo: Royal Caledonian Curling Club/Brian Battensby (brianbatphotography.co.uk))

The Scottish Curling Junior Championships were held this weekend in Aberdeen, and Team Mouat and Team Jackson won the men’s and women’s titles respectively.

Curl Aberdeen hosted eight men’s and eight women’s rinks, with a round robin stage being followed by page playoff, semi-final and final for each section.

Team Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell), looking to defend their title from 2015, led the men’s round robin from the start.

They qualified in top spot with seven wins from seven – beating Hay 7-4, Bryce 7-4, McNay 9-3, Whyte 8-5, Brydone 7-3, Barr 10-3 and Joiner 9-1.

Taking second spot in the men’s group were 2015-16 Asham Under-21 Slam winners Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, James Baird, Gavin Barr, Euan Kyle, David Baird), who lost to Mouat and Bryce, but defeated Joiner 10-5, Brydone 5-4, Barr 10-4, Hay 10-5 and McNay 7-4.

And in third were Team McNay (Cameron McNay, Fin Campbell, Ryan McCormack, Angus Bryce), who saw off Cameron Bryce’s RCCC Academy side courtesy of wins over Brydone (13-4), Joiner (10-3), Barr (8-2), Bryce (8-7) and Hay (9-2).

The women’s round robin was led throughout by Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen), who defeated Compton 10-3, Murray 10-6, Bryce 7-4, Aitken 6-1, Davie 8-1 and Young 7-5, before losing 8-7 to Hamilton.

The women’s 2015-16 Asham Under-21 Slam winners, Team Murray (Katie Murray, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith), joined Jackson in the page playoff courtesy of wins against Young (9-3), Davie (10-6), Hamilton (7-4), Bryce (7-6), Compton (9-6) and Aitken (7-6).

Third spot in the group came down to a tiebreaker between Teams Aitken (Karina Aitken, Amy MacDonald, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr) and Young (Lesley Young, Louise Joiner, Beth Dandie, Jane Barr), both finishing the round robin on W4 L3 records – and it was Aitken who won that decisive match 8-7.

In the men’s 1v2 page playoff, Mouat scored two in end one, three in end four and two in end six to defeat Whyte 8-5 – Whyte then losing again in the semi-final as McNay advanced to the final courtesy of steals of one in ends four and five and a huge steal of three in end eight in a 7-4 win.

In the final, Mouat made a fast start, with two in end one and a steal of two in end two, before effectively wrapping the game up with a three in end seven for an 8-3 victory that meant they retained their title and will represent Scotland at the World Juniors from March 5-13.

As for the women, Jackson scored twos in ends five and eight on their way to a 6-3 win over Murray, who took their second chance to make the final by beating Aitken 7-5 in the semi-final with twos in ends four and eight.

Despite a two for Jackson in end four of the final, a steal in end six for Murray tied it up at 3-3 going into the seventh end.

There, Jackson scored two, Murray responded with a two of their own, but Jackson scored another two in end nine before running Murray out of stones in the tenth to claim the match and the title – a second in two years for team members Naomi Brown and Rachel Hannen – so they will be joining Mouat in Copenhagen next month.

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The Canadian Junior Championships also took place this weekend, with Team Dunstone of Manitoba winning the men’s title and Team Fay of Nova Scotia the women’s.

And the qualifiers for Canada’s greatest prizes, the Brier and Scotties, continued.

Team Robichaud won New Brunswick, Team Curtis took Newfoundland and Labrador, Team Galusha were victorious in Northwest Territories, and Team Campbell won Saskatchewan to complete the Scotties line-up.

As for the Brier playdowns, Team Gushue (as expected) won in Newfoundland and Labrador, while Teams J. Koe, Menard, Murphy and Smallwood have also qualified – there are still eight spots to be decided.

And the Swedish championships were also played this weekend, to decide their men’s and women’s titles and who would represent Sweden at the World Championships.

No surprises in the men’s event, as current World and European champions Team Edin were triumphant, while in the women’s section it was Team Östlund who came out on top.

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And finally…

Curling 2015-16: Mid-season review

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As we wave goodbye to 2015, it’s time for a look back at some of the events and stories from the first half of the curling season, and the Scottish teams’ part in them.

For all the talk of new broom technology ruining the sport, there was still a great deal that was familiar: brilliant events, Canadian Grand Slam dominance and Team Edin winning the biggest prizes…

Edin and Sidorova conquer Europeans
Esbjerg, Denmark, was the setting for the 2015 European Curling Championships and did a great job – competitors praised the ice, the volunteers and the fact that the A and B arenas were on the same site.

Scotland’s representatives were Team Smith for the men’s section and Team Muirhead in the women’s.

Smith had seen off Teams Brewster, MacDonald and Murdoch to qualify for Esbjerg, but their relative inexperience (this was a first men’s Europeans for the 2013 World Juniors champions) seemed to tell early on.

They slid to a W1 L4 record with defeats against Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands – their A-Division status seemed to be at stake and playoff hopes a distant dream.

But suddenly it clicked into place. Finland were beaten 7-3 and from there Smith reeled off the wins against Italy, Russia and Germany – they had their confidence back, and were making the big shots.

They had secured Scotland’s spot at the 2016 World Men’s Championship, but faced a tiebreaker against Sweden to make the semi-finals.

They were edged out 8-7 by Edin’s Swedish rink – a disappointment after their run of wins, but undoubtedly a fine European debut for Smith.

There was less drama for Team Muirhead in making the women’s playoffs, as they racked up seven wins from nine.

The drama was saved for their semi-final with Finland, as the Finns led 5-0 after three ends and the game looked to be slipping away from the Scots.

But the nightmarish start was followed by seven ends of professional and increasingly dominant curling from Muirhead’s rink, dragging themselves back to 6-6 after seven ends and stealing two in end eight for a lead they never relinquished.

It was not to be the perfect ending for Muirhead, as Team Sidorova of Russia won the final 6-4 – but the silver medals represented a step up from last year (where they won bronze), both on the podium and in terms of quality, delighting coach David Hay with their consistent level of performance.

Gold for Sidorova was a fitting reward for a team who operated with an air of composure and control throughout the week – while in the men’s competition it was Sweden who took top spot.

Having narrowly beaten Scotland in the tiebreaker, Team Edin got up to their 2014-15 tricks again, really turning it on when it mattered to beat Norway in the semi-finals and Switzerland in the final.

Homan hammer Grand Slam rivals
While the four Grand Slam of Curling men’s titles played for so far have gone to four different winners – Team Koe claimed the Tour Challenge, Team McEwen the Masters, Team Gushue the National and Team Epping the Canadian Open (angle raises ahoy) – there’s been one team ruling the women’s events.

Team Homan may have lost the Tour Challenge final to Team Tirinzoni of Switzerland, but since then they’ve been winning. A lot.

The Masters, National and Canadian Open all fell before them, three of their titles in a season that has seen them take more than $160,000 in tournament winnings… with plenty more to come in 2016, no doubt.

As for the Scots… well, Tirinzoni’s Tour Challenge win is the only Grand Slam title not to go to a Canadian rink at this point in the season, so it’s been an uphill battle.

Teams Brewster and Smith reached the semi-finals of the Tour Challenge tier 2, but the Olympians of Team Murdoch struggled – at least up until the Canadian Open, where they went out at the quarter-final stage after earlier notching wins over Teams Jacobs, Laycock and Bottcher.

In the women’s Grand Slams, Muirhead made the quarter-finals of the Tour Challenge (beaten by Homan) and semi-finals of the Canadian Open, Team Jones denying the defending champions a spot in the final.

With those results – as well as being runner-up at both Europeans and the Stockholm Ladies Cup, plus semi-finalists at the Women’s Masters Basel – it’s been a consistent enough season so far. Indeed their skip believes they’re in a better place than they were at this point in 2014.

One more thing from the Grand Slams: Gushue’s fall at the Masters.

As well as prompting discussion about whether helmets should be worn on the ice, it also raised the issue of concussion.

Gushue miraculously (or, perhaps, dangerously) returned towards the end of the game in which he fell – but should that have been his decision to make, or one for an objective party, i.e. a doctor?

Curling Canada is now looking to create the sport’s first concussion protocol ready for the 2016-17 season, which can only be a good thing.

Scots winning at home and away
So it’s been nearly but not quite for the Scottish teams so far in 2015-16? Not exactly.

Smith claimed the spoils at the Goldline Scottish Curling Tour Edinburgh International, seeing off Van Dorp’s Dutchmen, their other most notable performance coming at the Swiss Cup Basel, where they fell to Gushue in the semi-finals.

Brewster won the Curling Night in America men’s event held in Eveleth, as well as finishing runners-up to Edin at the Baden Masters in August and to compatriots Team Mouat at the Champions Curling Tour event in Dumfries this month.

Mouat had previously won the BrokerLink OVCA Junior Superspiel in Ottawa, Canada – a week after beating Epping twice on the way to the Challenge Chateau Cartier de Gatineau semis – and also the Forfar Open on the Scottish Curling Tour.

The team currently holding the most Scottish Curling Tour titles this season, though, are Team Hardie, who won both the Braehead and Dumfries Opens.

Just a few days before Christmas, Murdoch won the Karuizawa International in Japan, seeing off Pat Simmons’ rink in the final, and taking momentum into 2016.

On the women’s side of things, Team Gray won the Dumfries Challenger CCT ladies event, having reached the semi-finals of the Dave Jones Northbridge Mayflower Cashspiel and quarter-finals at the Boundary Ford Classic, both in Canada, earlier in the season.

Team Fleming have had a tough few months, although they did make the quarters at the Women’s Masters Basel and semis at the Medicine Hat Charity Classic in Alberta.

The future’s bright
Scotland’s hopes for future success also performed well in the first part of the season.

The first leg of the Asham Under-21 Slam was held in Greenacres and the men’s section was won by Team Whyte, while the women’s title went to Karina Aitken’s rink.

From there, while the men’s events were won by a different team each time, Team Murray went all Homan on their opponents and claimed top spot at Kinross, Inverness and Lockerbie.

As for the junior men, Team Bryce won in Kinross, Team Brydone in Inverness and Team McNay in Lockerbie.

There were also Scottish teams involved in the European Junior Curling Tour events – several picking up medals.

Team Jackson won gold at the Braehead Junior International in September, while Mouat won men’s bronze.

Brydone and K Aitken won silver and bronze respectively at the EJCT event in Oslo, Norway, while Bryce and Murray took third and fourth respectively in Thun, Switzerland.

Hopes for 2016
The next year promises to be a big one for Scotland. Tour events begin with the Perth Masters, which has again attracted a world class field, from January 7-10.

Others include the Glynhill Ladies International (also January), Aberdeen City Open (February), Aberdeen International (March) and Perth Ladies International (April).

The Royal Caledonian Curling Club hopes for increased media attention and spectator numbers for these, and the Scottish Championships in February of course, ahead of Braehead hosting the 2016 Europeans in November.

Another area of potential growth is in mixed curling, boosted by mixed doubles’ inclusion in the 2018 Olympics.

Scotland (Cameron Bryce, Katie Murray, Bobby Lammie and Sophie Jackson) were a tiebreaker away from making the quarter-finals of the inaugural World Mixed Curling Championship in Bern, Switzerland, in September.

In April 2016 we have the World Mixed Doubles Championship in Karlstad, Sweden – Scotland will be represented by Bruce Mouat and Gina Aitken, and hopefully they can lay down a marker for the nation at this key time in the development of the discipline.

One more hope for the year to come: a concrete resolution to #broomgate.

Following complaints about ‘joystick curling’ and teams calling others ‘cheats’, certain broom heads were banned, at least temporarily, at elite level while the sports governing bodies try to sort it out.

It’s not an easy thing to do. How do you answer questions such as:
– How effective a broom is too effective?
– What should the balance be between good shot-making and good sweeping?
– What should the balance be between getting in the best physical shape and getting the best out of your equipment?
– Can the World Curling Federation be seen to make objective calls when it is sponsored by some broom suppliers (Balance Plus and Goldline) and not others (notably Hardline)?

However those in charge of the sport come to a conclusion (I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes!), it must involve the global curling community and the testing/decision-making process must be transparent.

Or, in other words, what these guys said.

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Thanks for reading and supporting The Roaring Game Blog in its first few months… may you, dear reader, and the sport have a fantastic 2016!

Weekend round-up: Titles for Scots home and away

It was a busy weekend before Christmas for Scottish curlers, with Team Murdoch taking the Karuizawa International title in Japan while their compatriots battled each other in Dumfries and Lockerbie.

Team Murdoch (David Murdoch, Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews, Michael Goodfellow) joined men’s teams from Belarus, Canada, Germany, Norway and Sweden, as well as Japan and South Korea, at the Karuizawa International, with 15 rinks divided into three pools.

Murdoch began with a 9-2 win over Team Fukui of Japan, scoring three in end three and four in end six, before a 7-4 victory against Team Matsumura, again of Japan, with threes in ends two and four.

Further wins, 7-6 against Team Hoiberg of Norway and 5-3 over Team Baumann of Germany, sent Murdoch directly into the semi-finals.

There they faced Team Soo-Hyuk Kim of South Korea, and the Scots came out on top 6-4, with twos in ends one and five.

The final was contested between Murdoch and Team Simmons of Canada, and again Murdoch scored two in end one.

But Simmons came back with two in the sixth, and the game went to an extra end tied at 3-3.

Murdoch held hammer, though, and got the one required to win the competition – ending the week undefeated and with impetus to take into 2016.

The women’s competition was won by Team Ogasawara of Japan, who saw off compatriots Team Fujisawa 5-4 in the title decider.

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The latest Curling Champions Tour event, the Lely Challenge Series, was held at the Dumfries Ice Bowl – with both men’s and women’s titles up for grabs.

The men’s competition saw 16 teams divided into four sections, the first seeing Team Hardie finish top, ahead of Team Smith in second.

Section 2 was headed up by Team Mouat, ahead of Team Hamilton, while Section 3 saw Teams Bryce and Van Dorp as the top two.

Finally, Section 4 produced Team Brewster and Team Thune as qualifiers for the playoffs.

In the quarter-finals, Bryce defeated Hamilton 7-4, Hardie were 4-3 winners over Thune, Mouat saw off Van Dorp 9-5 and Brewster edged Smith 5-4 after an extra end.

Then, in the semi-finals, Brewster won 5-3 against Bryce with a three in end one, while Mouat defeated Hardie 6-2, largely thanks to steals of two in ends three and four.

So the final pitted last year’s winners Brewster (Tom Brewster, Glen Muirhead, Ross Paterson, Hammy McMillan) against Mouat (Bruce Mouat, Duncan Menzies, Bobby Lammie, Gregor Cannon, Angus Dowell).

Mouat started with a two in end one but Brewster stole ones in ends three and four to lead 3-2, before another two for Mouat in end five.

The game was 4-4 going into end eight, and Mouat scored one with hammer to claim the title.

Bruce Mouat told British Curling: “It’s been a really good week, winning [the Scottish Mixed Doubles] last weekend, then having two exams this week that went OK ahead of this.

“The guys played really well this weekend. I’m thankful that each and every one of them played really well. We got to know the ice.”

“It’s a great way to finish the year and we’ll be looking to come back with guns blazing as we have a really hectic February, March and April coming up.”

The 15 women’s teams were divided into three groups, the first one being headed by Teams Gisler and Rilea.

Group 2 saw Teams Driendl and Maillard qualify, while it was Teams Gray and Fleming who made it out of Group 3.

Driendl and Gisler went straight into the semi-finals, but the remaining four playoff teams faced off in quarter-finals – Gray beat Rilea 5-1 and Maillard beat Fleming 8-3.

Come the semis, there were wins for Gray, 6-5 against Driendl, and Maillard, 4-3 over Gisler.

The final, then, was between Gray (Lauren Gray, Jennifer Dodds, Vicky Wright, Mhairi Baird) and Maillard (Isabelle Maillard, Andrea Marx, Fabienne Furbringer, Bettina Bouhel).

And it was Gray’s Scottish rink who came out on top, scoring twos in ends three and five on their way to a 6-4 victory.

Skip Lauren Gray said: “It came down to the last shot with a hit and roll to win and another good team performance in a tight game.

“It’s our first competition that we’ve won as a team against good international teams so it’s been a great weekend.

“It’s our second season together and we’re starting to make our games tighter and we need to keep building on that, but we’re progressing quite fast and we’re really pleased to get a team win.”

Team Gray With Dumfries Challenger Series Trophy - David Owen
Team Gray with the trophy – photo: David Owen

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The final leg of the Asham U21 Slam took place in Lockerbie this weekend, with 10 junior men’s teams (including three from Denmark, England and the Netherlands) in two groups and eight women’s teams (also with one from Denmark), again divided into two groups.

Men’s Group A was topped by Team McNay (Cameron McNay, Fin Campbell, Ryan McCormack, Angus Bryce) ahead of Team Carson (Luke Carson, George Ballentyne, James Craik, Mark Taylor).

The second group saw Teams Joiner (Craig Joiner, Euan MacDiarmid, Robin McCall, Craig Patterson) and Whyte (Ross Whyte, James Baird, Gavin Baird, Euan Kyle, David Baird) qualify.

In the semi-finals, Joiner stole ones in ends six, seven and eight to beat Carson 6-3, while McNay versus Whyte went to an extra end before McNay scored their one with hammer to win 5-4.

The final was a more one-sided affair, McNay scoring twos in ends two and four and stealing three in end six to defeat Joiner 8-1 and claim the title, while in the third/fourth place match Whyte won 7-2.

Junior Women’s Group A saw Teams Murray (Katie Murray, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith) and Bryce (Amy Bryce, Lauren Morgan, Leeanne McKenzie, Rebecca Baird) progress.

Teams Young (Lesley Young, Beth Dandie, Kathryn Spain, Jane Barr) and Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Emma Barr, Annabel Skuse) were the qualifiers from Group B.

Come the semi-finals, Young scored two in end one and stole one in end four on their way to beating Bryce 6-4, while Murray stole ones in ends four and five to see off Davie 4-1.

Murray went on to clinch the title by beating Young 8-3 in the final, courtesy of a two in end one, four in end four and two in end six – while Bryce won the third/fourth playoff 5-4.

Kinross Junior Classic: Wins for Teams Bryce and Murray

Teams Bryce and Murray claimed the men’s and women’s titles at the Kinross Junior Classic on Sunday, both going unbeaten through the competition.

The event was the second Asham Under-21 Slam of the season, giving Scotland’s young curlers the opportunity to further develop, while competing for points towards the overall Slam leaderboard and £1,000 in prize money.

There were 13 men’s teams (in three groups) and nine women’s teams (in two groups) involved, playing either three or four matches with the aim of qualifying for the semi finals.

In Group A of the men’s competition, Team Brydone (Robin Brydone, Callum Kinnear, Callum Greenwood, Craig Waddell) came out on top, beating Team Carson 11-4, Barr 5-3, Joiner 5-3 and Clark 5-4.

Group B was won by Team Whyte (Ross Whyte, James Baird, Gavin Barr, Euan Kyle, David Baird), who triumphed against Team Lockhart 7-3, McLean 11-3 and Tweedle 13-2.

And Group C saw Team Bryce (Cameron Bryce, Zack Stewart, Fraser Kingan, Frazer Shaw) come out on top, with wins over Team McNay 8-4, Cormack 11-5 and Johnston 8-2.

The fourth team into the semi finals were Team McLean (Callum McLean, James Hay, Drew Thomson, George Sinclair), their place decided by last stone draw.

As for the women, Group A was won by Team Jackson (Sophie Jackson, Naomi Brown, Rachael Halliday, Rachel Hannen), who defeated Team Aitken 11-2, Young 6-3 and Farmer 7-3.

Going through in second were Team Aitken (Karina Aitken, Amy MacDonald, Sophie Sinclair, Laura Barr), thanks to a 7-7 tie with Team Young and wins over Farmer 10-2 and Brett 18-0.

Women’s Group B was topped by Team Murray (Katie Murray, Rebecca Morrison, Hailey Duff, Mili Smith) after wins over Team Bryce 7-4, Davies 9-5 and Hamilton 13-3.

They were joined by Team Davie (Lisa Davie, Kirsty Barr, Emma Barr, Annabel Skuse), who beat Team Hamilton 11-2 and Bryce 8-7.

In the men’s semi finals, Team Bryce edged Team Brydone 3-2, stealing in end eight for the win, and Team Whyte beat Team McLean 8-4 thanks to a three in end six and a steal of two in end seven.

As for the women, Team Murray recovered from going 4-1 down to Team Aitken, stealing singles in ends five, six and seven for a 5-4 victory.

They were joined in the final by Team Davie, who scored four in end five to beat Team Jackson 8-5.

Team Bryce took the men’s final to an extra end with a two in end eight, then stealing one for a 4-3 win over Team Whyte.

The women’s final was a more comfortable affair for Team Murray, who scored three in end two and stole singles in ends five and eight for an 8-2 triumph against Team Davie.

In the 3v4 games, Team McLean beat Team Brydone 5-4 after an extra end, and Team Jackson won 8-4 against Team Aitken.

For photos from the event, see Brydone images’ Facebook album here.