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After numerous appearances at baseball nationals, Tankard champion confident heading to first Brier
Andrew Symonds has played in over a dozen national baseball championships during his Hall of Fame-worthy career that ended in 2017, but even Symonds knows his next appearance at a Canadian championship will be different.
With due respect to the national senior baseball championship, the Tim Horton’s Brier is a different animal.
But Symonds is up to the challenge.
“I was fifth for Brad (Gushue) in 2011 (in London, Ont., where the team finished third), so I’ve got a good handle of what to expect with all the off-ice stuff,” Symonds said.
“Keith (Jewer, Symonds’s lead) was there in 2006 with Ken Peddigrew’s team. And Adam (Boland, the second) and Chris (Ford, Symonds’s vice skip) have curled in nationals before, so I don’t think there’ll be a dear-in-the-headlights thing.
“I know the teams we’ll be facing are very, very good. Some of them are all-star teams. But we’ve got a pretty good team, too.”
The Symonds foursome, sponsored by Crosbie Group, had their game on display at Bally Haly Country Club the past few days where they punched their ticket to the 2019 Brier March 2-10 in Brandon, Man. The team from the Remax Centre (St. John’s Curling Club) won the provincial Tankard men’s curling championship Sunday morning, beating clubmate Rick Rowsell 5-0 for the title.
Symonds, Ford, Boland and Jewer went through the 12-team triple knockout 6-1.
“This means everything,” said Symonds, 44, who only started curling for the first time in 2000. “We‘ve been working at this for years and years. We decided nine months ago to make a change to the team, with the end goal of making this happen.”
Newfoundland and Labrador will actually have two teams in Brandon — Gushue is back as Team Canada, the defending Brier champs where he hopes to make it three championships in a row, tying him with Alberta’s Randy Ferbey for the most consecutive titles.
It was the same case last season as Gushue wore Team Canada’s jacket in Regina, Sask. At the Tankard this time last year, Symonds lost 9-6 to Greg Smith of St. John’s in the provincial final. Smith went on to represent the province in Regina.
Symonds came close to winning after forcing a second championship game with a 9-4 win over Smith.
“That was a tough one to swallow,” Symonds said of the loss. “When Brad won the Brier again last year, it opened up another free-for-all for the Tankard and the lightbulb went off with a bunch of teams, who started making moves.”
Symonds was one of them, adding Ford and Boland, both experienced curlers, to the lineup in place of Mark Healy and Dave Noftall.
Ford threw second rocks for Colin Thomas, but had expressed an interest in playing on the back end. Boland has skipped his own team in last year’s Tankard.
“We’d all expressed a mutual interest in playing together,” Symonds said. “When it was finalized, we thought we had a pretty strong team on paper.”
Team Symonds played in two bonspiels on arena in ice this season, going 1-3 each in Gatineau, Que. and Charlevoix, Que. The foursome went undefeated in winning the Centennial spiel at the Remax Centre.
When asked how many rocks they’ll be throwing between now and March 2, Symonds was quick to answer: “A lot.”
“We don’t do this as a career,” said Symonds, who is in business development with Verafin. “So we’ll be getting down to the club lunchtimes and as much as we can on weekends.
“And I’m sure we’ll get some games in between now and then. We’ll be ready.”