STEINBACH -- The thigh finally had it.
Valour Road skip Dave Smith has laboured through a hip and thigh problem to his left leg for years, but somehow managed to keep curling at the elite level.
However, just five minutes before his first game of this year's Safeway Select yesterday, Smith dramatically pulled himself from the lineup in favour of a fifth man by the name of Vic Peters. And the former Brier champ will remain at the helm the rest of the way.
"It's one of those things you have to decide whether you're able to play at the level you want to play and at this event, there's no second place," explained Smith, who had asked Peters to be the fifth. "So, I felt the team was probably better off if Vic takes it from the beginning."
Third Don Nelson certainly understood.
"(Smith's) been toughing it out all year," he said. "He's been taking pills to make the pain go away so, it was his choice. And it's not a bad sub to get."
Peters had planned to just enjoy watching.
"That was a shock, for sure," said Peters, who skipped the squad to an 11-5 victory over Thompson's Grant Brown at the T.G. Smith Centre. "I thought he was playing right until game time. Only he knows how it feels and I feel bad for him because he should be playing, for sure. It's his team and he earned his way here.
"I love to play but I don't feel I should be out there. If they want me to play, I definitely signed up for that circumstance."
In fact, it is reminiscent of Russ Howard being asked to be the fifth for Newfoundland's Brad Gushue at the Olympic trials, then playing and calling the shots for the eventual winner.
"No kidding," Peters said. "Obviously, a lot of people were negative about that and they may be about this, too."
Not a chance.
Peters, however, did admit that it could mess with the chemistry of Smith's squad.
"They'd have a better chance if Davey was healthy," he suggested. "It might take me three or four games to get comfortable."
Peters, who is the honourary chairman here, had desperately tried to get his own team into this year's Select because it is being held in his hometown.
"It's kind of ironic that I did play (after all)," he conceded. "But again, it's not the circumstance we'd all like to see. I feel bad for Davey because he's had that leg problem for so long. But it's his call and I'm going to do my best to help him.
"And this has always been like a mini-Brier and these things are great to be in even if you don't earn your way in."
The foursome has already become a crowd favourite.
"It is nice to have that," Peters said. "Donnie Nelson was saying he's usually the villain so he thought this was great."
Not so great for Smith, though.
"Yeah, it's disappointing but it's not my first time here," he said. "I feel a lot more for (clubmate) Renaud Gagne. It's his first time and he can't play (due to a knee injury)."
Smith, 41, believes he can correct the problem by changing his slide.
"I twist my leg a little too far and there's a few more pounds than there used to be years ago," he said. "When I come out of the hack, I've been putting a lot of my weight on the rock to hold myself up and at that point, before you throw it, you have to let go of that thing and if it's holding me up, it's not very good."
James Kirkness, his fifth, has replaced Gagne at skip.
"The MCA did the right thing when it made the fifth man official because it solved a lot of problems," Peters said.