Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Fans in Liverpool will have someone local to cheer for when the Home Hardware curling pre-trials are held October 26 to 31.
Jill Brothers and her Mayflower rink will be among 28 other squads, 14 women's and men's teams, competing in Liverpool. Top teams will move on to the 2021 Tim Hortons curling trials held in Saskatchewan in November. The winners will represent Canada at the February 2022 Winter Olympic Games in China.
Brothers and her foursome competed at the pre-trials direct-entry event held in Ottawa last month and earned one of two spots available, thereby earning the right to move on to the Queens County challenge.
Brothers said the team is where they want to be.
"Three years ago, we sat down and talked about where do we want to go. I didn't know that the event was going to be in Liverpool. It's all just icing on the cake," she told LighthouseNOW. "It's been three years of work, ups-and-downs and babies and all that kind of stuff, but we made it."
The team consists of vice-skip Erin Carmody, second Sarah Murphy and lead Jenn Mitchell. Kim Kelly, the team's alternate, played in Ottawa, taking the place of Murphy who just had a baby.
The team didn't take the easy route in Ottawa. They started the triple-knockout tournament with two losses.
However, they were able to re-focus to win five straight games, including an 8-6 win over Saskatchewan's Jessie Hunkin in the final, to earn a spot in the field in her home community.
"We got there and we've only played a couple of league games here and I knew we were kind of up against it, as far as some of the other teams having played in 'spiels already," Brothers said. "We only had ice for one week, like three league games, plus we had to engage our fifth, Kim, who played for us. We just didn't have that fully functional team dynamic set up."
Normally, she said, the team would play a few local bonspiels to get the kinks worked out prior to competing in larger events. She said it took a bit to get used to the atmosphere, the time clocks and the triple knockout format, something that she hasn't played with for "it seems like decades."
After their second loss, Brothers said the team took a deep breath of sorts and Kelly, who is also their team mentor, shared some good points about staying in the moment and remembering the process of each shot, instead of getting ahead of themselves.
"We grew so much as a team in such a short time, that it was pretty cool to see and to pull out the win in that third game, with that growth, was great," she said.
The team took it from there.
Brothers said that it will be great to compete in Liverpool where she has won a provincial mixed and provincial Scotties event in 2009 and 2010.
"Hopefully everyone can be in the stands. This alone will be different for everyone because no one has had fans in the stands for a long time. I think that is something everyone's going to be excited about," she said. For herself, she has had great support from her friends and family no matter where she goes.
Brothers, Murphy and Brine have played together for the past seven years, while Carmody joined them about five years ago. Kelly has been an alternate for several years and Brothers says she has been an invaluable, flexible asset to the squad.
Brothers said their key to success in Liverpool will be just about taking key lessons learned from Ottawa and bringing those forward.
"We learned so much," she pointed out. "We all talked a lot about process, the process of getting there and the individual process of each little thing that you have to do."
Sarah Murphy took a brief leave of absence to have a baby. Kelly played for her in Ottawa and, at this point, it is undecided whether Murphy is able to play in Liverpool.
Joining Brothers from the Ottawa event in Liverpool is team Kerry Galusha (Northwest Territories) who also qualified on the women's side in Ottawa.
In the men's competition, Vincent Roberge (Quebec) and Sean Grassie (Manitoba) advanced to the Liverpool event.
Event tickets are now on sale and event chairman, Greg Thorbourne, anticipates a full house at Queens Place Emera Centre, as long as COVID-19 protocols are maintained. These regulations include everyone being double-vaccinated and masks being worn at all times.
Thorbourne said more volunteers are needed for timing and statistics jobs.
This is the third major curling event to be held at Queens Place Emera Centre. In 2014, the community hosted the Canadian Junior Curling Championships and, in 2019, the World Junior Curling Championships.