Surreal scene for Brier rookies

Saskatchewan supporters watch a match between their team and Prince Edward Island during The Brier...

Saskatchewan supporters watch a match between their team and Prince Edward Island during The Brier in Saskatoon, Sask., March 3, 2012. (ANDY CLARK/Reuters)

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:25 PM ET

SASKATOON - Imagine. It’s your first Tim Hortons Brier. There are 10,021 fans in the stands. You’ve never played before more than a few hundred folks. And you’re paraded in behind the bagpipers and it’s as if they’re all cheering for you.

If this 83rd edition of the Brier has an identity coming out of the hack, it’s the number of fresh faces — a remarkable 19 rookies — in the no-name field.

Most of them were on the ice in the opening draw as it worked out including seven in one game alone.

Two first year Brier competitors won their first games as skips including the one from the host province.

But maybe the most interesting first impressions belonged to Allan Lyburn, the rookie third who lost his first game playing for Manitoba.

Lyburn is from Scotland.

He curled for Scotland in the 1992 world junior championships in Oberstdorf, Germany, and only a few weeks later moved with his family to set up a dairy operation in Brandon, Man.

“No one in Scotland had ever experienced anything like the Brier,” raved Lyburn, who has been joined on Rob Fowler’s team by his brother William who was added as the fifth man.

“Every part of this has been amazing. The fans are unbelievable. There’s a lot of chanting and cheering. And that’s even at the opening ceremonies before you even get to the games.

“Being drummed in for that with all those people in the stands dressed up to show their support for the different provinces is definitely something to remember forever.”

Brier rookie Jamie Murphy, after skipping Nova Scotia to 9-5 win over Jamie Koe of the Territories featuring a five-point fourth end, stood surrounded by television cameras and reporters, his teammates surrounded the scene taking pictures.

“This is my first interview,” he said. “It’s been a pretty interesting day. The whole three days since I arrived here have been pretty interesting.

“It’s just been a surreal experience — the experience of a lifetime. I mean, it’s just crazy to come in and see all those people. It was great to get off to the start we had to take the nerves out of it.”

Try put yourself in the curling shoes of Scott Manners, who led all skips with a 94% shot average.

The Saskatchewan skip couldn’t stop beaming as he walked in behind the bagpipes, his head on a slow swivel looking around the stands.

“It was good to look around. I wanted to feel the crowd and savour the scene. I wanted to get the crowd behind us, too.”

When Manners and his Lloydminister Border Kings won Saskatchewan, nobody had ever heard of them before. And it was like the air came out of the province when they won. ‘The Brier is in Saskatoon and we’re send WHO?’

Saskatchewan teams have only managed to produce winning records at the Brier 15 times in the last 30 years.

Hey, they’ve already matched Don Gardiner of Lemberg who went 1-10 in 1987 and the performance of Jim Packett of Estevan who went 1-10 in 1997.

Next to catch are Doug Harcourt of Quill Lake in 1994 and Joel Jordison of Moose Jaw in 2009, who both skidded to 3-8 records.

Saskatchewan has won only 11 of their last 33 games at the Brier. But some time on the way here, this province decided that these guys were a fuzzy-wuzzy, feel-good story and decided to welcome them to the sixth Brier in Saskatoon with a giant group hug.

“It was fantastic,” said Manners, who blanked the first two ends and then hit Mike Gaudet of PEI — with three rookies on his team — with a pair of three-enders en route to an 8-4 win. The first produced an explosion of applause.

“I was nervous (Saturday). Nervous all day.

“It was amazing to be in the Hot Shots,” he said of being one of eight curlers to qualify for the final eight of the skills competition between the opening ceremonies and the first draw.

“I never had a chance to win a car before.

“I just can’t tell you how it feels to be from Saskatchewan and be at a Brier in Saskatchewan,” he said.

The 39-year-old wheat farmer gave Saskatchewan what wheat farmers live on. Hope.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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