Last year at this time, Janet Harvey was riding the crest of a lucrative cashspiel circuit and on the verge of capturing her third Manitoba crown.
But, her once-formidable Fort Rouge foursome has gone from the penthouse to the poorhouse as it prepares to play in the Scotties Tournament of Hearts city zone playdowns, which start at Asham Arena's Valour Road Curling Club tomorrow night.
"We had a great year last year and we're just starting to put it together as a team after a slow start this year," Harvey said yesterday. "We lost a lot of qualifying games, which could have made a difference in our total (earnings)."
Harvey remained in the Top 5 of the women's cash tour all of last season. But she heads into the zones as the No. 2 seed with a total of only $3,500, which is a dismal 47th on the World Curling Tour list. However, Harvey has won $6,100 on the Manitoba Curling Tour, which puts her in fifth spot. By comparison, St. Vital's Jennifer Jones, the top seed, is second on the WCT with $29,500 and first on the MCT with $16,500.
"You're never that happy when you're not winning," said Harvey, still supported by third Jill Thurston, second Cherie-Ann Loder and Carey Kirby (nee Burgess). "But our goal is not to be on top of the cash circuit, our goal is to be on top of our game going into the playdowns."
Harvey is also determined not only to defend her title but to get back to the nationals, where her squad posted a disappointing 4-7 record last year.
"It's important that we get back to right that wrong," she said.
Although former Manitoba champion Barb Spencer also got off to a slow start, she could blame it on a knee that needs arthroscopic surgery. But since she started taking anti-inflammatories and tweaked her delivery to take some pressure off the knee, Spencer has been rounding into form. In fact, her third-ranked Fort Rouge rink recently beat Jones in the final of an MCT event in Stonewall.
"Obviously, we're going into the zones with a little more confidence than we had at the beginning of the year," said Spencer, supported by third Chelsea Carey, new second Kristin Loder and Barb Enright. "But that was due to problems with my knee, not because my team wasn't throwing well.
"And any time you play against Jennifer, you have to play well to beat her. Now, we're going into the zones on a roll."
Only 17 teams entered the five zones.
EMOTIONAL SPIEL: The Teulon Curling Club recently hosted the inaugural Jonathan Watson Memorial Junior/Youth Bonspiel to honour the memory of a local boy who succumbed to cancer when he was only 11.
"The reason for the bonspiel was that, no matter how sick he was from going through treatments, he always wanted to make it out to curling because it was something he could excel at," said club president Alan Campbell.
Young Campbell Kilpatrick, who curled with Jonathan, approached the club about the possibility of hosting a spiel to raise funds for the CancerCare Manitoba pediatric program. The event attracted 16 squads from all over Manitoba and the whole town got involved with an official opening ceremony, complete with addresses from the mayor, the local MLA and Kilpatrick.
"When he was alive, Jonathan had a profound effect on the community," Campbell said. "The saying around town was, 'Canada has Terry Fox and Teulon has Jonathan Watson.'
"It proved to be a very successful event."
More than $2,000 will be officially presented to CancerCare early in the New Year.
"It (bonspiel) certainly will be happening again," Campbell promised.
COMING UP: Most of the MCA's Scotties Tournament of Hearts rural zones will be played at the same time as the city zones ... The Brandon Men's Bonspiel, which offers a Safeway Select berth, also goes this weekend ... Although there were only 14 entries yesterday afternoon, the Manitoba Curling Tour's Enns Brothers Classic will still be played in Morris.
HOUSE CLEANING: Pembina's Martin Bailey beat Brandon's Jim Renwick 6-5 in the final of the Strathcona Senior Men's Berth Bonspiel in Morden late Monday. Supported by third Les Hooper, second John Helston and Bill Hodgson, Bailey will compete at the 2007 Strathcona Senior Men's Provincial Championship, to be held at the Fort Rouge Curling Club, Feb. 22-26 ... Chad Malfait of Plumas won a junior men's rural zone late Sunday. Brandon's Kevin Barkley was playing Virden's Brendan Jorgenson in another junior rural zone last night ... Manitoba's Vic Peters earned $4,000 by qualifying at a World Curling Tour cashspiel in Saskatoon, Sask., but was knocked out in his first game of the championship round.
BITER: Curlers are raving about the highlights of MCT games that competitive curler John White has started to show on a blog linked to the MCT website. In fact, MCT event co-ordinator Bob Picken even used it to get updates for his radio reports. The MCT may even engage White in an official capacity, at least by offering him an honorarium of sorts. "He needs to do a little better job of presenting it but if he comes to us for some support, we'd be glad to do it," Picken said. "But he hasn't approached us other than asking permission to do it."
TEAM OF THE WEEK: She just earned her sixth trip to the Manitoba senior women's championship.
"And I've been to quite a few women's and a lotta Mixed ones," Minnedosa's Jean Garbolinsky said.
But she still gets pumped to play in a provincial.
"It's still exciting, very much so," Garbolinsky said. "It gets so that you almost expect it but it is still special."
Garbolinsky defeated Heather's Myra Macoomb in one semifinal of the Great Canadian Travel Senior Women's Berth Bonspiel at the Pembina Curling Club on Sunday to win one of the two spots available in the spiel. Then she beat Brandon's Lois Fowler 8-7 in the final, avenging a loss to the former Manitoba women's champion in Hamiota, and is the Sun's Team of the Week.
Supported by third Heather Lewis, second Cheryl Orr and Diane Sadler, Garbolinsky will compete in the Mondetta Senior Women's Provincial Championship, to be played in Altona, Feb. 22-26.
"Every year, we've been in the final four but never seem to get into the final," Garbolinsky said. "But we're going there to win. We want to represent Manitoba (at the nationals)."