SASKATOON – There was a time when separating the contenders from the pretenders at the Tim Horton’s Brier was a relatively simple task. That time has passed.
“I would say of the 11 teams that will be in the main draw, probably nine have a realistic chance of winning it,” said Steve Laycock, Saskatchewan’s Brier skip for the third straight year.
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Laycock’s foursome is undoubtedly part of that group. The Nutana Curling Club rink won bronze at the 2015 Brier and is currently the sixth-ranked team in the world. The skip welcomes the challenge of competing against such a talented field.
“If you’re playing a team that everyone’s going to beat that week, that’s that much extra pressure for you to have to beat them as well,” he said. “The fact that this is such a good field, if you lose to a team they’re probably going to beat a few other teams as well, so that usually helps out.”
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That’s just one of the lessons Laycock has learned from playing in five Briers, including three on a team skipped by Pat Simmons, who won the championship last year with Team Canada. Another crucial lesson is how to manage the ups and downs of the week-long competition.
“When you’re an up-and-coming team, actually winning big games can take a lot out of you – just the excitement level you get from that,” he said. “You’ve got to stay a lot more even-keeled through an event like the Brier. It’s 11 games. One win here, one loss there isn’t what makes or breaks you so to bring your best effort throughout the week is what you learn.”
“I think that’s something that you need that experience. You need to learn from that,” added vice-skip Kirk Muyres, who throws third stones. “That was one of the big things that we said to ourselves. We need to find a way to deal with that fatigue.”
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Even if the team can stay fresh they know some things will be out of their control. That’s where preparation becomes paramount.
“It’s almost reassuring to know we can sit back, trust our processes, trust our plans that we’ve put into place and just continue to do the things we’ve done all season that allowed us to be as consistent as we have been,” said Muyres.
“Everyone else is getting better too. The level of play is just incredible and with it being such a good field we could play better than last year and have a worse result,” said Laycock. “So that’s where we have to be a little bit realistic, but that being said I think we’ve taken some huge strides and are ready to win this event.”
The main draw of the 2016 Brier kicks off Saturday in Ottawa.