Tuesday, October 02, 2012

New Season Thoughts 1

What a summer of sport that we have had! I was enthralled by the Olympics and the Paralympics. The performances were spectacular but the dedication and commitment that led to those performances – well, they were simply outstanding. Standouts for me as a true Brit were the performances of the cyclists and rowers (obviously!), the Opening Ceremony (and tell me that you too didn’t shed a tear or two), that marvellous Saturday night when it all came together in the athletics stadium, Usain Bolt – oh, I could go on.

But do you know the biggest highlight for me? Four or five weeks when our national radio stations’ airwaves were not hogged by the great god, our so-called 'national' sport (at which we are totally and utterly woeful, by the way) football. With the gloriously apt exception of the shenanigans at the Rangers Football Club (Newco or Oldco – take your pick) and the interruption provided by a bunch of football fans indulging in what they seem to do best – fighting on the terraces at Dundee in Dundee United’s match against Moscow Dynamo, our screens and airwaves were filled instead with properly committed sportspeople, funded I will grant you, but not to the obscene levels of the top footballers, indulging in competition of the very highest quality and level. It was brilliant.

Sadly, it is over. After a brief respite, football hogs everything and is everywhere and those of us who despair are left with memories of the Tour de France, Wimbledon and the odd oasis provided by the likes of the Ryder Cup (What a performance!) and the US Open tennis championship (didn’t the boy do well?).

Oh. And the curling!

The season has started; I have already had my first fall and have suffered the pangs of defeat at the hands of the Midcalder curling club in the Jackson trophy. But you don’t want to hear about that! Instead, let me take a look at the upcoming season and post some thoughts on the runners and riders in Scotland. I shall start with the men.

The shenanigans at the top of our sport have Tom Brewster and his unchanged team from last season of Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow being joined by David Murdoch, erstwhile Scottish and Olympic skip. It seems to me that these five players look like the HHY’s shoo-ins for the next Olympics – call me an old-fashioned cynic if you will. It is going to be interesting to see how David Murdoch melds in and makes a tight four into an equally tight five. Certainly, they have to be considered favourites for the Scottish championship. Tom and co are now double world silver-medallists. It would be good if they could go one better this year!

To do that though, we first have to qualify for the world championships by doing well in the European championships and that done, they have to get past some other useful looking teams. Last season, the talented David Edwards won many more games than he lost at the Scottish championship finals. I expect that he will do the same again. He has kept his team together, so continues with former Scottish junior champion skip John Penny, Scott Macleod and Colin Campbell.

Logan Gray looks to me to have got things sorted out this year. I like the fact that he has Ross Paterson at third. Ross has developed into a fine top-end player in my view. In playing with Logan, they recreate the top end from Logan’s very first junior Scottish success. These two could do something special this season. At second is Al Guthrie, another strong player in the mid- to late-twenties generation and at lead, they have the (slightly older!) Richard Woods.

I fancy these three teams will make the top three of the Scottish championships this year. There you are – I can’t say fairer than that.

Mind you, three veteran teams will take a few scalps this season and are just loving the fact that I have tipped other teams to top them in the Scottish! Look out for Smiths (but not related) Warwick, David and Alan, who are joined by experienced lead Ross Hepburn in a strong-looking team. Ewan Macdonald has persuaded Duncan Fernie out of premature retirement to play third with a front end of young Ally Fraser (to be fair, he’s just out of juniors and can hardly be called a 'veteran'!) and Euan Byers. Sandy Reid and Moray Combe have persuaded another old warhorse, Hammy McMillan, to pick up where he left off a couple of seasons ago. Murrayfield’s Sandy Gilmour takes up the mantle with Hammy again. These are strong teams and are capable of beating anyone on their day.

I also expect strong challenges from Glen Muirhead, Graeme Black and John Hamilton. All three skips played in the Scottish championship finals last season and could well do so again. Junior teams (or teams just out the juniors) skipped by Grant Hardie, Kyle Smith (reigning Scottish junior champions) and Murray Young will be keen to compete in the finals. They will all challenge too at the two Scottish member events of the Champions Tour, the Edinburgh International, November 9-11, and the Ramada Perth Masters, January 5-8. Both events have attracted top overseas teams to augment the Scottish teams that will take part.

It’s a long slow burn towards Olympic stardom and the chance for new heroes to introduce themselves to the sporting scene at the top level of our sport and a chance for the rest to make statements of intent. An interesting season ahead, I would wager!

Robin Copland

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