Lead in tough spot

JIM BENDER -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

MORRIS -- The greatest lead in Manitoba women's curling history was thrust into an awkward position.

As previously reported, Janet Arnott will be throwing the first brick for St. Vital's former Canadian champion Jennifer Jones at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts, that starts with the first of four draws at 8:30 this morning. Arnott is replacing Dana Allerton, who was cut from the squad on the eve of the provincials -- after helping Jones qualify.

"Do I feel bad? Yeah, I do, definitely," Arnott readily admitted after yesterday's practice. "I mean, we didn't start the year off with this intention because, if we did, I would have been out throwing rocks a lot sooner than I was. But it just happened and I had to be ready. So, I'm just going to do the best I can."

Although it is a common occurrence for men's teams to split up in mid-season, few, if any, do so after qualifying for provincial play. And the reaction to the move has been mostly negative. Even Karen Porritt, who played third for Jones when she won the 2002 Manitoba title (with Allerton at lead), told the Sun she disagreed with the tactic. But neither Arnott nor Jones seemed concerned about the crowd reaction when they are introduced before today's 12:15 p.m. game against Thompson's popular Denise Podolski.

"I don't know the crowd that well," Arnott said. "I haven't thought that much about how the crowd is going to react, I've just been so focused on the team and getting ready for it.

"I don't read the paper ... and I don't go on to the Internet. I pretty much stick to my thoughts and what we know and I'm just going to go out there and try to do the best I can."

In a previous interview, Jones also said she was not worried about a negative reaction, believing that winning would overcome such a response.

The only light Jones has ever shed on the move came when she told CurlTV.com that Allerton -- one of her very best friends -- lacked consistency as she takes aim at qualifying for the next Olympic trials.

Rumours persist that Dawn Askin, the fifth for Ontario's Jenn Hanna, will eventually replace Allerton but would be ineligible to play with Jones at the nationals should she win Manitoba. Although Askin played for Jones at a recent cashspiel in Switzerland, Jones has said the team has yet to decide who Allerton's permanent replacement will be.

"Janet's been involved with our team (as fifth) the last couple of years so for her to step in, is just so easy," said Jones, still supported by third Cathy Overton-Clapham and Jill Officer. "It's a position she's played for so long and we know her very well and she knows us very well so that adjustment is really easy for us."

Jones did ask Allerton to remain as the fifth but she declined.

"We're excited to be here and hopefully we'll play well and give ourselves a shot," said Jones, both the cashspiel and CTRS points leader. "We've had a pretty good year and we've been getting better as the year's gone on so hopefully, we'll start off well and get better with each game."

ICE QUEENS

Most Manitoba women's provincial appearances (including 2007)

Chris Scalena 25

Janet Arnott 21

Connie Laliberte 20

Lois Fowler 17

Jacki Rintoul 17

Janet Harvey 17

Jan Sandison 16


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