Fresh off a playoff-round appearance at the Viterra Championship last week, Steve Irwin is vying for another provincial title this weekend with his partner Stacey Fordyce.
The Brandon Curling Club is hosting the Dynasty Mixed Doubles provincial championships this weekend. The Brandon club duo open play against Jason and Christine Curtis on Friday at 5:30 p.m.
The accomplished curling tandem decided to join a mixed-doubles league at the Brandon club this year knowing provincials were going to be in the Wheat City. It’s the first time the two skips have played mixed doubles.
"It’s a completely different game," Irwin said Wednesday. "It’s fast-paced and rocks are in play all the time. Strategy is totally different."
For Fordyce, who has a couple of national club championships under her belt, said it’s nice that the Brandon club offers a mixed doubles league.
"It’s great that the Brandon club has started to get more people out trying the game," she said.
"Just because it is so different and just being able to do that we figure out pretty quick what works and what doesn’t work and it gives us a chance to try different things and see how it goes, just different parts of the game that we’re not used to."
For those who may not be seasoned experts on mixed-doubles curling — and it’s OK if you aren’t — the game is a lot different than your regular four-person curling.
First off, there’s only two players, so a lot of the time you have to sweep your own rock, which is a bit of an adjustment for two skips who don’t do a lot sweeping. This has an effect on how each player will throw, knowing there is only one sweeper.
"There’s the sweeping element of it that I don’t do a lot right now," Irwin said with a laugh. "That’s a challenge, and then judging weight, especially because you have one sweeper, there’s a challenge of that and you may not be able to keep it straight as easy (control) speed like when you have two sweepers."
Teams only throw five rocks, instead of the typical eight. There are technically six rocks in play, as one rock is placed on the button and one is placed as a guard. The team with hammer has the guard, while the team without has a rock on the button.
This has a big impact on how teams approach the game.
"You can’t hit after the first few rocks either," Fordyce said.
"It gets junkier than it would otherwise at times, it’s different strategy and it’s a different mindset to play that game and everyone’s got different roles on it."
There’s certainly more opportunity to have some messy houses.
"It’s a lot of moving stuff around, getting the angles right and not miss the wrong way, that’s the biggest thing," Irwin said.
"There’s no real defence, the best defence is a good offence so you got to get out of your head that you can bang away to get out of stuff but you just got to keep tapping stuff around, make freezes and it’s a lot more challenging and we both enjoy it a lot."
Added Fordyce: "It takes a lot to get used to but we’re definitely having fun, it’s something we’ve really enjoyed and we learn every week."
The tournament features the likes of the recently crowned Manitoba men’s provincial champion Jason Gunnlaugson and Theresa Cannon, who skipped at the Manitoba Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Rivers a couple weeks ago.
Former Brandonite Willie Lyburn will also compete with his daughter Mikaylah. Brandonite Derek Samagalski from Mike McEwen’s team is playing with Krysten Karwacki, who curls with Darcy Robertson. Both competed at their respective provincial championships.
"There’s some big names," Fordyce said. "It’s the same thing for them, it’s a different game than they’re used to unless they are doing the competitive mixed doubles circuit. The tandem are both competitive people and will aim to win some games at provincials."
Added Irwin: "We’ve never played in any bonspiels or anything like that. We got challenged pretty good in some of our games in the league so we’re just curious to see how it goes at a provincial setting."
Fordyce said she doesn’t know what to expect, but is looking forward to the event nonetheless.
"We are playing against some teams that have been curling mixed doubles longer and know the game and have had success at the competitive level," Fordyce said.
"We’d like to go out there and win a few games if we could qualify and see if we can build on each game and get on a roll, it’d be great. We’re both super competitive so we’re out there to try and win at least."
Provincials wrap up on Monday with the final at the Brandon Curling Club set for 4 p.m.
EXTRA ENDS: The Riverview Curling Club is hosting the fourth annual Suds/Spud Night and Curling Bonspiel Fundraiser Feb. 21-22. The fundraiser is helping Westman children with disabilities learn to swim and features six-end games. Entry fee is $200 … Wawanesa Curling Club is hosting the Ellis Seeds Open Bonspiel Feb. 21-23. Entries can be sent to Amanda or Simon Ellis at 204-824-2290 … The Souris Curling Club is hosting its 22nd annual Survivor Bonspiel March 31 to April 5. $200 entry for men, $160 for women, $160 for senior ladies, $60 for juniors Grade 12 and under. Entries can be mailed to Survivor Bonspiel at Box 771, Souris MB R0K 2C0. Cheques are payable to Souris Curling Club Survivor. Entries are due by Feb. 15 … The Boissevain Curling Club is hosting their men’s and ladies bonspiel on March 6-8. Contact Jim Dickinson or Jamie Dobbyn for more information … Killarney is hosting their ladies bonspiel March 13-15. Contact Kyla Urquhart at 204-523-1828 for registration details. Killarney is also hosting the men’s St. Pat’s bonspiel March 13-15. Contact Don Chatham at 204-523-7487 … The Gladstone Curling Club is hosting a men’s bonspiel on March 13-15. Entry is $160 per rink and includes supper on the Friday night … The Glenboro Curling Club is hosting an open seniors bonspiel on March 18. Entry fee is $80 and includes two games during the day. Deadline for entry is March 11. Contact Bruce Anderson at 204-827-2303 for registration.
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