A late harvest might have delayed the true start to the curling season for David Hamblin, but his Morris-based foursome is reaping the rewards of a bumper crop after heating up at just the right time.
Hamblin's rink of third Ross Derksen, second Ryan Thomson and lead Mark Georges punched their ticket to the Safeway Championship with a 6-4 victory over Derek Dowsett of Stonewall yesterday afternoon at the 122nd MCA bonspiel.
The key blow came in the fifth end when Hamblin delivered an open hit for four.
"We made a few fantastic shots and it's the first big end we cracked all week," said Hamblin, who will be making his fifth appearance at the provincial men's championship and third as a skip. "It's a pretty big day for us. It's a bit of a relief, but we're pretty excited to have it done and looking forward to Steinbach."
Hamblin will face David Kraichy of Pembina in tonight's Sport Manitoba final.
Kraichy has his Safeway berth locked up, so the match-up is merely for bragging rights.
It was a slow start both on and off the ice for the Hamblin rink as both the skip and second are farmers.
"The October and November part was a tough thing for us to do and in a lot of ways, (the curling season) didn't really start until December," said Hamblin, whose rink won a World Curling Tour event in Dauphin and also won the DEKALB Super League they play in.
"Unfortunately, curling isn't paying the bills yet and you have to get the crop off. The farming year was long and kind of drawn out this year. Typically, you're into clean-up things by October and you can make the curling work, but this year we were still harvesting. We did manage to play a few events and squeeze it in, but we didn't really throw a practice rock until December and that was hard.
"We weren't doing as well as we would have liked and when you don't have the time to put into practice, it's kind of pointless. It's felt like we've only had half a year this year but thankfully, it's not done yet."
Hamblin, who skipped the 2002 world junior champions, believes his crew can contend when the provincials get underway in Steinbach on Feb. 10 at T.G. Smith Arena in Steinbach.
"We're not going to say we're going in expecting to win the thing, but we're kind of building again and getting back to where we want to be," said Hamblin, who lost in the final of the southern berth bonspiel to Randy Neufeld of La Salle. "Hopefully, we can have a good showing and make it interesting.
"If we play well, we can be competitive."