Manitoba curling: As the rock turns

JIM BENDER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:03 AM ET

The rock soap opera that is the Manitoba curling scene continues.

A former Manitoba men's champion has stepped down from skip to play second; Jason Gunnlaugson is seeking either a new skip or a third to help his squad to get to the 2009 Olympic trials; Reid Carruthers is looking for a front end for his new team and the two Kirkness sisters have reunited for next season.

James Kirkness, who played third for Dale Duguid at the 1998 Brier but has skipped every year since then, will play second for Pete Nicholls.

"I was actually looking to take the year off because of all the travelling I do for work but they called me up and it was a good fit for me because they have a scaled-back curling schedule," Kirkness said yesterday. "(But) I've just got to learn to sweep again."

His two sisters, Barb Spencer and Darcy Robertson, who won the 2003 provincial title, are back together. Spencer lost this year's final to Jennifer Jones while Robertson lost the 2007 final to Jones, who already has a bye into the nationals as the defending champ.

Brent Braemer, who played third for Kirkness last winter, has re-joined Dave Boehmer.

Earlier this week, Carruthers decided to part with Gunnlaugson and the rest of his promising young team and will skip a squad with Dan Kammerlock, who was cut by Kerry Burtnyk, at third.

"It was a long season, we played virtually every weekend and we stayed four to a room so tensions naturally rose," explained Carruthers, adding that those tensions increased when it became evident that some members had offered to play for Jeff Stoughton before he added Kevin Park.

Carruthers also decided he needed a lighter schedule so he could focus on his studies (education).

"Obviously, it sucked for a while when your skip and friend decided to do something different," said Gunnlaugson, who will keep playing with second Justin Richter and Tyler Forrest. "But you move forward."

Although they will lose the 25% share of Canadian Team Ranking System points Carruthers took with him, Gunnlaugson still plans to play a heavy schedule.

"Our plan is to come up with the best lineup possible that can get us to the Olympic trials," said Gunnlaugson.

Meanwhile, former world junior champ Dave Hamblin has reportedly joined David Bohn at third.


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