Skip William Lyburn calls on his sweepers during his opening draw at the Safeway Championship in Neepawa. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
NEEPAWA — When William Lyburn returned from last year’s Tim Horton’s Brier in Saskatoon, he had a meeting with his curling team and laid it all on the line.
Although he only threw two rocks at nationals as Rob Fowler’s fifth, Lyburn enjoyed the Canadian men’s championship twice as much as he expected and became more motivated than ever to skip a team there. The former Brandonite’s teammates — James Kirkness, Alex Forrest and Tyler Forrest — jumped on board with their skip’s passion and have been focused all year on earning a trip to this year’s Brier in Edmonton.
They didn’t curl in more events this season, but they played in bigger stops on the World Curling Tour instead of just at bonspiels around Manitoba. Lyburn, who now curls out of Winnipeg, believes that decision has paid off.
"We performed very well," said Lyburn, who won $25,000 on the WCT circuit this season. "There were a couple we maybe let slip away but we performed very well, and I think we’re a stronger team this year than we were last year and last year we were stronger than the year before. It’s a good trend and I hope it keeps continuing."
Lyburn came into the Safeway Championship — which is being played at Neepawa’s Yellowhead Centre — as the fourth seed. He opened the five-day event with a 6-3 victory over Winnipeg’s Bruce Jones on Wednesday.
While some people may think it may not be a good sign for a high seed to play a difficult game with the 29th-ranked team, Lyburn didn’t see it that way.
"It’s not bad to have a tough game," said Lyburn, who expected a tight contest against Jones, who pushed Fowler in their Safeway Championship opener last year. "It gets you in game mode quicker."
Lyburn believes his team is a dark horse this week and knows they have to play well to have any chance of reaching their goal of winning the provincial title. However, the former Scottish junior champion believes his team has enough talent to surprise a few people this year.
"When it comes to elimination games, we’re going to have to play some of the best curling we’ve played," he said. "There’s two or three all-stars here and then there’s a bunch of us who are the best of the rest. That’s five or six other teams. For us, personally, I think we’ll be comfortable in the position and let’s hope we can play our way into this event."
HIGH SCHOOL: The MHSAA provincial curling championships run from today through Saturday in Plumas and Gladstone. Teams from Baldur, Minnedosa, Virden, Strathclair, Crocus Plains and Gladstone are in the 16-team double-elimination girls event. Westman will be represented by Carberry, Dauphin, Virden, Major Pratt (Russell), Neelin and Gladstone in the 16-team double-knockout boys event.
JUNIOR SCHOLARSHIP: The Sandra Schmirler Foundation announced earlier this week that it will give six scholarships worth $5,000 on an annual basis to competitive junior curlers who are maintaining their post-secondary studies. Details are at sandraschmirler.org.
EXTRA ENDS: Hamiota’s men’s bonspiel is set for Feb. 15-17. Entry fee is $120. Contact Tim at 204-764-2666 or Neil at 204-764-2215 … The Brandon Curling Club’s Dominion playdowns will be held from Feb. 16-17. Contact the club at 204-726-3560 to register … Carberry will be rocking with its 125th men’s bonspiel set for Feb. 18-24. The town’s women’s bonspiel will run Feb. 22-24. To register for the men’s event, contact Brian Salt at 204-834-2665. For the women’s, contact Suzie Scott at 204-834-2114 or Betty Buurma at 204-834-2700.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition February 7, 2013