Riach wants respect

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Doug Riach isn't about to mince words.

He believes he has paid his curling dues but hasn't received the kind of respect he deserves.

"Maybe the curlers should take note," Riach said yesterday after clinching the grand aggregate title at the 118th MCA Bonspiel.

"Maybe we'll get some respect. We weren't seeded in the zones or last year at the Safeway Select. (Third Russ Hays) and I have a lot of credentials behind us and it doesn't seem to be recognized at all lately and I don't know why."

Riach won his second grand aggregate -- the first came in 1992 -- and earned a berth in the provincial men's championship (Feb. 8-12 in Steinbach) with a 6-2 win over Warren's Bryan Preston yesterday afternoon at Thistle.

His St. Vital team, which includes Dennis Wiebe and Tim Friesen, finished with a record of 15-2, with 13 of those victories counting toward the grand aggregate.

CLAIMED BERTH

They lost their first game of the bonspiel yesterday morning 7-6 to Morden's Ian Beavis, who also claimed a berth in the Select. If Riach had lost to Preston, Beavis could have tied him for the grand aggregate. Beavis butted heads with Wayne Ewasko of Selkirk in a main event final last night and won 7-4.

Ewasko earned his trip to Steinbach with a 9-6 semifinal win over Ryan Bay of Pembina, while Valour Road's Reid Carruthers also qualified for provincials with an 8-7 semifinal win over Select-bound Allan Lyburn of Brandon.

Carruthers beat Riach 6-1 last night in the other main event final, while Preston beat Bay 8-4 to claim the final Safeway Select berth.

"We got a Select spot through the spiel last year and we really wanted to win our zone this year so we wouldn't have to go through this meat grinder," said Riach, who will make his 12th trip to provincials.

"I have to admit we had a good draw. We played some quality teams and some teams not so quality. That's what it takes to win the grand aggregate. If you don't get a good draw, it's very tough."

Of course, Riach never really gave much thought to the grand aggregate throughout his spectacular week.

"It's mission accomplished as far as the Select goes," he said. "The grand aggregate is just a bonus."

Riach, 44, has burst back on the provincial curling scene recently despite retiring from the game for six years after injuring his knee in 1996.

He admits there were times during those years when he figured his curling career was over.

"Truthfully, no," he said when asked if he ever expected to be back playing at an elite level.

"When I came back with Robert Baldwinson (as third) in 2003 my wife said 'Why don't you try it,' and I did and we won a Select spot. That little smouldering fire just went ablaze."

He returned to skipping last year and went 2-2 at the provincials in Selkirk.

After his team's performance in the MCA, Riach is almost certain to be seeded at this year's Select and is unlikely to remain a forgotten commodity.

In fact, only a handful of people in the province can say they are two-time grand aggregate winners, even if these two titles came 14 years apart.

"Two is nice to have and I'll take it any day," Riach said.

"It is huge, especially for oldtimers like me and Russ, when they start making us play three games back-to-back-to-back. It catches up to you but we still came out strong when we needed to and we got it done."

Riach entered yesterday's two semifinals with a 14-0 record but still could have missed out on the Select without at least one victory. The morning loss to Beavis provided some nervous moments.

"You would hate to lose out after winning 14 in a row," he said.

"But we didn't let (one loss) bother us."


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