Keeping curling in the family

TERRY JONES, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:29 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- It's the World's first father-son game.

Earle Morris is coach of Australia at the World Curling Championship, which opens here today.

Son John Morris is curling for Canada.

"Only in curling can this sort of thing happen," said the father of Canada's third at the event.

"I don't know, I don't think it's ever happened before," said John.

If it is a first, it's not the first first for the family.

Earle Morris is already the answer to a curling trivia question in that he represented three different provinces as a skip at the Brier - Manitoba in 1980, Quebec in 1982 and Ontario in 1985 - when the Canadian Armed Forces kept moving him around.

And they're the only family that can claim to have had three generations of Brier skips, Earle's grandfather Cliff McLaughlin skipped Saskatchewan in 1933 and John skipped Ontario to the final in 2002.

At least, the father-son game comes early. It's on tap here Sunday night.

"I'm debating whether to have a jacket created which is half Australian and half Canadian or just to take the night off," said Earle.

"John's mom is the smart one. She's coming here, but she doesn't get here until early in the week after that game has been played."

Earle said his son has been around the Australia team scene before.

"Last year we had the Australian team in Calgary to prepare for the Worlds in Edmonton last year. Guess where they stayed? John's place," said Earle.

"Ben Hebert subbed as lead for us one game," he said of the lead on Kevin Martin's Edmonton rink, who also lives in Calgary.

"I'm friends with all their guys and I think my dad is a great ambassador for the game. He's worked really hard with that team. I'll be cheering for them in every game other than the one when we play them," said John.

Earle doesn't apologize for coaching Australia.

"Curling is a fraternity. And I've always believed Canada has a responsibility to help out other countries, although there's a limit to that as we saw with China at the women's world championships," he said of the team that has been training in Edmonton and ended up losing the gold medal game to Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg.

"The way I look at it, is if Australia qualifies for the Olympics, that might inspire the building of a curling rink in that country. Right now, they don't have," he said of the fictitious Syndey Harbour Curling Club where skip Hugh Millikin, the 49-year-old president and CEO of the Indigo Pacific Group and his team of Ian Palangio, Sean Hall and Steve Johns list as their home.

The senior Morris has coached Australia at the last three worlds.

"It's the same deal as every year. Hugh gives me a million bucks and I work for him," Earle laughed of working with the team at the 2005 Worlds in Victoria, 2006 in Lowell, Mass., and the 2007 event in Edmonton.

"It's an exceptional experience. They're great guys. The only problem is that game against Canada every year.

"In Victoria we had Randy Ferbey on the ropes and for a while I was feeling badly. Then two years ago Hugh beat Jean-Michel Menard. It was the first time he'd ever beat Canada and he came up and hugged me when it was over. I didn't know what to do. I just sort of stood there and let him hug me but I didn't hug him back."

Millikin, who attended the Brier in Winnipeg where he took his team to prepare for the Worlds for a month as they always do in Canada due to no curling ice down under, sat in the MTS Centre cheering for Martin to win the Brier to make the match.

"I was a big fan for them. This is great. I got to know John real well, stayed at his place in Calgary and, obviously, I have a great relationship with Earle.

"It's going to be fun to play against them. I think Australia versus Canada is going to be a very interesting game this year."

It would be real interesting if Earle told Millikin how to get under his volatile son's skin and John busted another broom in that one. Or if Millikin complained, like Glenn Howard at the Brier, that Morris was leaving hand and knee prints on the ice causing their rocks to pick ...


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