October 24, 2010

International draw throws up some interesting matches

The draw for the 2010 Edinburgh International has been announced and appears on the competition website here.

As in years past, the competition has 24 entries. Each team has been put in one of four leagues and is guaranteed five games of curling. The top two teams from each of the four leagues progress forward to Sunday morning’s quarter finals. Thereafter, the event moves to straight knock-out culminating in the afternoon final at 2.30pm.

Last year’s winning skip, David Murdoch has a new team this year with reigning Scottish Champion Warwick Smith at third, young Glen Muirhead at second and old campaigner and three-time Scottish Champion Ross Hepburn at lead. Ross and Warwick won Bronze Medals at the recent World Championships. This will be the new team’s first competitive outing in Scotland and it will be interesting to see how well they gel together as a unit. They will have games against Keith Prentice and his team of past World Senior Champions. Keith. Lockhart Steele, Robin Aitken and Tommy Fleming are enjoying a glorious Indian summer in their curling careers, though were unfortunate to miss out on competing in the recent World Senior Championships in Russia; the volcanic ash cloud did for their travel plans! Robin Aitken, a member of the Edinburgh International Organising Committee, recently won the Scottish Senior Mixed Championships with fifth man Archie Craig.

The Murdoch v Prentice clash takes place on Friday morning at 08.30. They are both in Section A with former Scottish Junior Champion Sandy Reid, Iain Watt, a Hungarian team skipped by Gy├Ârgy Nagy and a Russian team skipped by Andrey Drozdov. I like the look of Sandy Reid’s team of Moray Combe, Scot McLeod and David Soutar, though you have to question David’s taste in trousers! Iain Watt has previous winner Alan Smith throwing thirds stones, Sandy Christie at two and reigning Scottish Junior Champion and World Junior Silver Medallist, Steven Mitchell at lead.

In section B, Ewan MacDonald brings his new team of Graeme Connal, Pete Loudon and Euan Byers to the party. His main challenge may very well come from Duncan Fernie, recently-crowned European Mixed Champion David Edwards at third, and the experienced front end of Richard Woods and Colin Campbell – immediate past European Mixed Champion – at lead. Their clash is at 10.50 on Saturday morning. Before that game though, Ewan has to face Stranraer’s Frazer Hare, who has Robbie Dick, Jamie Strawhorn and Don Frame in his team this year. England’s Jamie Malton, Italy’s young team from the Pinerolo area, skipped by Marco Pascale and Scotland’s Neil Joss are the other competing teams in this strong-looking group.

Section C has Stranraer’s doughty Hammy McMillan, who skips another past World Champion skip in Perth’s David Smith, the front end being former Scottish Junior Champions and World Bronze Medallists Ross Paterson and Sandy Gilmour. It is difficult to pick from the other five teams in this section. Finland’s Aku Kauste is a relatively unknown quantity; he and his team have featured in recent Finnish Championships. England’s Allan MacDougall is a former World Junior Champion skip – though at the time he was representing Scotland. He brings recent international form to the competition though; he and his mixed team made the semi-final stages of the European Mixed Championship at Greenacres before agonisingly losing his last two games to finish just outside the medals. John Hamilton skips Jamie Dick, Andrew Craigie and Graeme Copland; they had a disappointing season last season and will be looking to the Edinburgh International to kick-start their season. Local teams skipped by Murrayfield’s Paul Stevenson and – I almost used the word “doughty” again! - Graham Shaw will not let anyone win their matches against them easily.

Finally, section D looks tasty! Tom Brewster has put a new young rink together. It includes Greg Drummond and Michael Goodfellow – both of whom lost out in the final of the Scottish Junior Championship last season and both of whom enter the big, bad world of competitive curling wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. Actually – they were good enough to reach the final of the Scottish Championships as well as the Junior Championships. Warwick Smith finally won that game, but not before Glen Muirhead (who skipped Michael and Greg) had a bad pick-up that might have helped square things late on in the game. Scott Andrews, reigning Scottish Junior Champion and World Silver Medallist plays second stones in a strong-looking team. Logan Gray will fancy his chances with his new team as well. He has Alasdair Guthrie at third, brother Lindsay at second and Iain Stobo at lead. Lindsay is still eligible for the juniors but has elected to concentrate on the Scottish Championships this year. Logan and Alasdair are multiple Scottish Junior Champions, of course. Lee McCleary and David Sik were quarter-finalists in the competition last season and will be anxious to take their rinks a couple of stages further! Another former Scottish Junior Champion Scott Hamilton brings his new team to the event. Craig Reid, David Reid and Scott MacArthur look to me to be a strong team and I think that they might very well get out of this tough section. Local hero Alan Chalmers – I say “local”, but he now lives in Perth! – has been a long-time supporter of the event and brings Hamish Lorrain-Smith, Struan Macnee and EICC Organising Committee member Gordon Addison to the competition.

Who is my money on? Well – I am not a betting man, but if you want me to call it, I will go with the following eight teams in the quarter finals: Murdoch, Reid, Macdonald, Fernie, McMillan, Hamilton, Brewster and Gray. And earlier on I said that I thought that Scott Hamilton might get out of section D – how fickle am I?

There you go anyway – head on the block!

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