After four years together, Allan Lyburn is taking a year off from curling competitively with Rob Fowler’s Brandon-based team. But whether he ever returns is the big question.
"I honestly don’t know for sure," said Lyburn, who has tossed third stones for Fowler’s foursome since it was put together back in 2010. "I think it’s easier once you get out for a year to stay out and if I’m not missing it, then there will be no reason to return. If I did miss it, the next hard part might be to get on a team, a good team, anyway ... If Rob’s team is available at the time, it would be something to think about, but right now I am going to enjoy the year off and think about that in a year’s time."
Fowler said second Brendan Taylor and lead Derek Samagalski are expected to stay together for the 2014-15 season when the team may look for a new third or perhaps move everyone up a notch and look for a new front-end member.
"It’s a little bit early to know for sure where we go from here and it will depend on who is available and probably until the Brier is over, you don’t really know for sure who all might be available," Fowler said. "We knew that it was going to be a possibility for quite a few changes this year with the end of an Olympic cycle and we were definitely a little surprised when Allan told us. But he was very up-front with us and we had four great years with him."
It’s been a busy four years for the Fowler foursome, which came up short in their bid to qualify for the Winter Olympics in Sochi and were eliminated in a final four qualifying game this year while competing in their fourth straight provincial men’s championship.
"It’s been a four-year commitment and it’s a big buildup and then a big letdown at the end, too, when your goals aren’t reached and it’s just time for a break and time to recharge the batteries and see how I feel after a year," said Lyburn, who regularly had to take time off work at Krevco Lifestyles throughout the season to curl.
"After the (Olympic) pre-trials ... it was a big letdown, for sure, after all the work that you do towards it and then at the end of the day you come out with nothing, it felt pretty bad. But then we had to regroup there for provincials and we felt pretty good going into provincials, but unfortunately the team just didn’t gel and we didn’t play well enough."
Lyburn, who would like to spend more time with his wife Lori and five-year-old daughter Jordyn, cited the time spent travelling during the season and the disappointing end to this year as reasons for his decision to step aside. It’s a time commitment that Fowler knows all too well.
"Over the last four years, we’ve played 285 games and of course most of that, if not all of it, is on the road, so you couple that with practices and training and everything else that goes into it, it’s a huge commitment," Fowler said. "And then you balance that with work and family as well, right? And he just has a few other things in his life that he wants to focus on and you have to respect him for making the decision, knowing that he wasn’t ready to commit moving forward."
The 42-year-old Lyburn, a former Scottish junior champion who emigrated to Canada 22 years ago, was named the all-star skip when the Fowler foursome captured the provincial men’s championship in 2012 before going on to earn a bronze medal at the Brier.
"That was one of our big goals was to get to a Brier in the four years and we got there," Fowler said. "Obviously we wanted to get to the Olympic trials, we didn’t quite get to that ... We got to the pre-trials and we achieved some of our goals and maybe not some of the others, but overall we had a lot of fun playing together."