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Role reversal

['Newfoundland and Labrador curlers Geoff Walker and Brett Gallant sweep a shot during the first draw of the Brier.\n']
['Newfoundland and Labrador curlers Geoff Walker and Brett Gallant sweep a shot during the first draw of the Brier.\n']

Geoff Walker and Brett Gallant are considered the two halves of one of the best front ends in all of curling, so it might surprise you to learn Newfoundland and Labrador’s lead and second at this week’s Tim Hortons Brier didn’t always feel super great about their jobs.

When Walker joined Brad Gushue’s team in 2011 and Gallant came on board the following year, both did so after skipping their own rinks — and doing so successfully.

The move to different responsibilities with the Gushue rink took some getting used to.

“I don’t think I became a great front-end player until the last couple of years. I don’t think I was truly comfortable with it until then,” said the 27-year-old Gallant, who had been a two-time Canadian junior men’s championship skip out of Prince Edward Island.

“For me, the biggest adjustment was the sweeping and not just the physical part of it. It was judging the weight and knowing the ice at the front part of the sheet. It takes time to learn, to understand, but now I think we’re at the point where Geoff and I are … well, we’re just feeling very good about what we do.”

Perhaps unpretentiousness had taken over. But if Gallant was about to say that he and Walker are among the tops in their jobs, he would have been right. It’s been proven by their numbers at the Brier this week at Mile One Centre. Entering play Wednesday in the 12-team nationals, both sat second in the statistical rankings for their positions.

Walker, a native of Beaverlodge, Alta., just west of Grande Prairie, had been third for Charley Thomas’s Canadian and world junior champions and later second for Kurt Balderston, who at the time was one of Alberta’s top skips. In 2010, he formed his own team and skipped it all the way to the 2011 Alberta men’s semifinal, losing to Kevin Koe.

But he had never been a lead until accepting Gushue’s invitation to move to Newfoundland and join his team.

“Lead was a fairly tough transition. I always felt I was a good drawer,” said the 31-year-old Walker. “But if you are struggling at all with your feel or your draw weight — which is the shot you play constantly as a lead — it can be a little discouraging.

“Sometimes, the first couple of years, when things weren’t going great, you just wish you could throw a hard one down there — a peel or a takeout — make a shot and feel better about yourself,” he added with a laugh.

“But unfortunately, you don’t get that opportunity. But it doesn’t matter so much now.

“I’m always working to be better, but right now, I feel very confident in what I do, with what I can bring as a lead.”

Twitter: telybrendan

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