Brad Gushue says there’s enough talent in Newfoundland and Labrador to push his team for a Labatt Tankard provincial men’s curling title, but it needs to be developed and that men’s rinks are going to have to spend some money and get outside the province for tougher competition.
Gushue and his Bally Haly rink of Mark Nicholas, Ryan Fry and Jamie Danbrook scored twice in the sixth end and added three points in the seventh for a 7-1 victory in Saturday night’s provincial men’s final at the Re/Max Centre (St. John’s Curling Club).
With no rocks in play early in the eight end, Smith called it quits sending Gushue to his fifth straight provincial crown and on to his eighth Brier appearance in nine years March 5 at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont.
Gushue's 5-0 round-robin record gave him a double life in the final, while Smith and his Re/Max Centre rink of Rick Rowsell, Randy Turpin and Craig Dowden earned the right to play Gushue by defeating Andrew Symonds 7-4 in the semifinal played earlier Saturday.
In the final, Gushue scored singles in the first and second ends, but he said, “even though we were up 2-0, with the ice being as straight as it was, it was a nice lead to have which meant pretty simple strategy. They (Smith rink) had to force the issue a little bit later on in the game.”
Smith could only manage a single marker in the fifth end before Gushue completely took over.
Gushue swept through the six-team round-robin and was only pressed by Smith in the fifth draw when he needed a steal in the 10th end to pull out a 7-6 victory. He won his other four round-robin games by a margin of at least four points.
This year’s provincial Tankard was down two teams from last year, but Gushue said he isn’t concerned about the future of the game at the elite level.
However he added, “It is obvious that unless you are willing to put in the time and effort, it is going to be difficult to compete. Teams don’t have to put in the amount of time we do where we are on the road two out of every three weeks, but hey have to go outside the province to play in four or five events in Ontario or out west to get the competition to really develop.
“It’s not that we don’t have the skill in the province,” added Gushue, “it’s just that you need more big-game experience.”
The 30-year-old Gushue said there are “some good juniors coming along and I’m sure they are going to improve and who is to say someone isn’t going to beat us at next year’s provincials.”
But, he said, they have to develop that talent.
“There’s no doubt we were the best team this week, but who is to say that in two or three years someone is not going to improve.
“But if you want to compete on the Brier and World Curling Tour level, you’ve got to get outside of the province and practise every day. If you are not doing that, it’s going to be difficult to win.
“I understand Alex’s team played a couple of events outside the province this year which is a good sign,” said Gushue. “They have enough skill on their team that if they played five or six times their game would go up that much more and they’ve be even tougher for us to beat. We had a tough time with Alex Friday night and, fortunately, we played one of our best games to beat them. It probably means putting in a lot of effort and a lot of money to go out on tour. It’s the only way you clan improve, but they’re close.”
Meanwhile, Gushue said “unfortunately,” his team doesn’t have any events to play in prior to the Brier, but he said the rink might arrange some practice games and make sure “we’re solid technically.”
Still, he feels the team has played enough this season so that “I don’t think we’re going to be hurt by not playing any games between now and then.”