Steve Irwin and his Brandon Curling Club team surpassed their expectations at the Safeway Championship but believed they could have had a better finish in the 32-team provincial men’s curling championship in Winnipeg.
This year was Irwin’s first as a skip at the Safeway Championship, and his team of third Joey Witherspoon, second Travis Taylor and lead Travis Saban just wanted to make the eight-team playoff round. They accomplished that on Friday and went on to the final four after defeating Brandon’s Rob Fowler 8-4 in a qualifier for the 2-vs.-2 Page game, but they couldn’t get past it and finished fourth.
Irwin’s team was in control for most of their Page game and looked poised for a meeting with Mike McEwen in the semifinal, but Irwin’s squad missed five straight shots in the eighth end that resulted in former Brandonite William Lyburn getting four and taking a two-point lead. Lyburn then drew the four-foot in the 10th to win 9-8 and eliminate Irwin.
Irwin left Winnipeg with mixed emotions.
"Definitely (happy with our result) for being a first-year team," he said. "It’s a little better than we thought we’d do. The way we were playing we thought we had a chance to win it."
Irwin’s play was impressive during the week. He made a lot of key shots throughout the five-day event, and was rewarded for his efforts by being named all-star skip.
"That was kind of a surprise," he said. "It probably helps that I had a good game against Rob right before they had to do the voting, but it’s a team award. If we don’t make it that far, we don’t win that either. It was nice."
Fowler, meanwhile, was disappointed with his team’s early exit from the event. His foursome of third Allan Lyburn, second Brendan Taylor and lead Derek Samagalski came into the event as the third seed, but Fowler believed his team just didn’t play up the level they needed to get to in order to compete for the title.
"It’s obviously disappointing not being there with a chance to represent Manitoba, but I think we got what we deserved," said Fowler, who lost 9-4 to McEwen in a 1-vs.-1 Page qualifier on Saturday morning. "We didn’t as a team play as good as we could have. Hats off to Steve and Mike in the morning. Those teams played well against us and they deserved to beat us."
EXTRA END: The other Safeway Championship all-stars were Jon Mead at third, Matt Wozniak at second and Tyler Forrest at lead … The total attendance for the five-day Safeway Championship was 4,866 … In Saskatchewan, skip Brock Virtue was ejected from the final for breaking his broom after giving up a steal of one in the eighth end. Virtue’s team scored two in the ninth and stole one in the 10th, but lost 7-6 to Steve Laycock.