Bet on Jones to win Scott

TED WYMAN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

ST. JOHN'S, Nfld. -- The odds are better than even that someone named Jones will win the Scott Tournament of Hearts this year.

And that doesn't necessarily mean six-time Canadian champion Colleen Jones.

Manitoba's Jennifer Jones may just be the best bet to end the reign of Colleen Jones' Halifax foursome, which has claimed the national women's curling title four years running.

In any event, the rest of the field will likely be hard pressed to keep up with these Joneses.

"I would put my money on Jennifer Jones," three-time Manitoba women's champion Lois Fowler said earlier this week, when asked by The Sun to help handicap the field.

"I really have high hopes for them. I think she has a fantastic team."

Jones made the playoffs the last time she was at the Scott, in Brandon in 2002, before losing to Sherry Middaugh of Ontario in the quarter-final. She has different teammates this time around, all with Canadian championships to their credit. Third Cathy Overton-Clapham and lead Cathy Gauthier won the 1995 national Scott with Connie Laliberte and Jones and second Jill Officer won the 1994 Canadian junior crown.

The Manitoba foursome, which opens against Heather Strong of Newfoundland tomorrow (11:30 a.m.) should be a force this week at Mile One Stadium, but even that might not be enough to upend the defending champ.

Colleen Jones, with the brilliant supporting cast of Kim Kelly, Mary-Anne Arsenault and Nancy Delahunt, has been the unquestioned queen of women's curling in Canada for most of this millennium and there's no indication she'll abdicate any time soon.

"Absolutely, they can be beat but they always seem to rise to the occasion," said Fowler, who beat the Halifax skip in a round-robin game at last year's Scott in Red Deer, Alta.

WEST IS STRONG

"People seem to lay down and die for them. But I think the four Western provinces are very strong this year and any one of them could win it."

That brings us to the other top contenders, ex-Winnipegger Kelly Scott of British Columbia, 1998 Canadian champion Cathy King of Alberta and Saskatchewan's Stephanie Lawton. Both Scott and Lawton are former Canadian junior champions and Lawton's third and sister Marliese Miller, like Scott, is a former world junior champ.

Scott won her Canadian and world titles for Manitoba in 1995 and played with Jennifer Jones on a Jill Staub-skipped rink that won the 1991 provincial junior title.

"Kelly Scott has had a hell of a year on the bonspiel circuit," said Fowler.

The Eastern teams don't have much star power, but are capable if only because most of them have competed at the Scott before.

Prince Edward Island's Rebecca Jean MacPhee is making her sixth Scott appearance, while Heather Strong of Newfoundland will make her sixth appearance in front of a partisan St. John's crowd.

"(MacPhee) can knock off a couple of wins but I don't think they'll be at the top," Fowler said. "Heather Strong has been there a few times and could be a dark horse."

The rest of the field includes Brenda Nicholls of Quebec, Jenn Hanna of Ontario, who has a team of Scott rookies, Sandy Comeau of New Brunswick, Kay Zinck of Nova Scotia, who won a Canadian title with Colleen Jones in 1982 and has Jones' sister Monica Moriarty at lead and Kerry Koe of the Northwest Territories.

Meanwhile, the first look at the Joneses will come early in the tournament, with Colleen and Jennifer set to meet Sunday morning.

"I'd almost rather play (Colleen Jones) early, before she gets too hot," Fowler said. "I think that might be an advantage for Jennifer's team."

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WYMAN'S PICKS

Handicapping the field for the 2005 Scott Tournament of Hearts Feb. 19-27 at Mile One Stadium in St. John's, Nfld.:

1. Colleen Jones, Canada 2-3: Until someone beats the four-time defending champs, they are runaway favourites.

2. Jennifer Jones, Manitoba 3-1: Jones has all the tools and the right personnel to win her first Canadian title.

3. Kelly Scott, British Columbia 6-1: Known as Kelly McKenzie when she lived in Winnipeg, Scott is an up-and-comer and a definite sleeper.

4. Cathy King, Alberta 6-1: The 1998 Canadian champion has a new team and a major desire to qualify for the Olympic trials.

5. Stephanie Lawton, Saskatchewan 10-1: A team with a marvelous junior pedigree will contend in first Scott appearance.

6. Brenda Nicholls, Quebec 15-1: Best of the rest is little known but very capable.

7. Jenn Hanna, Ontario 17-1: Young team beat strong field to get here.

8. Heather Strong, Newfoundland 18-1: Home team will receive amazing support from St. John's faithful, meaning Strong could be the dark mare.

9. Kay Zinck, Nova Scotia 20-1: Lots of experience but little chance.

10. Rebecca Jean MacPhee, P.E.I. 25-1: Has a few wins in her.

11. Sandy Comeau, New Brunswick 50-1: Doesn't have a few wins in her.

12. Kerry Koe, Yukon-Territories 100-1: Token participant.


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