Sixteen junior men’s teams have entered the Scottish Junior Championships this year. Back to defend his title is Perth’s Kyle Smith. He retains Thomas Muirhead and Kyle Waddell from last season’s championship-winning team. Kerr Drummond has now aged out after a stellar junior career as a specialist lead. He has won the Scottish Junior Championship twice and was runner-up on two separate occasions as well. At world level, he made the podium on the two occasions he competed but the gold medal that he craved evaded him. This season, he is playing with Glen Muirhead, the skip that he beat in the first of his four Scottish finals. As an aside, Kerr’s older brother, Greg, played third in Glen’s team that year. Greg, as we know, has gone on to win two Scottish Championships and two World Silver Medals since his disappointment that day.
It is a big ask for Cammie Smith to fill those shoes, but that’s just what his big brother, Kyle, has asked him to do. This is a good-looking, strong team. They have that great advantage over the rest of the field – the “been there, done that” factor. When it comes to the business end of the competition on the Saturday and Sunday, that experience counts for a lot.
They have challenges though – perhaps the most obvious comes from Grant Hardie, Blair Fraser, Hammy McMillan and Ruairidh Greenwood, and here is a rub: the team will hardly have had a game together in the early part of the season. Grant and Hammy are playing in the Scottish Championship with Jay McWilliam and Billy Morton whilst Blair and Ruairidh are competing in a different team with Murray Young and Ian Copland. This is not good preparation for the Scottish Junior Championship, but they should still be good enough to get to the final stages of the Scottish junior championship on the Sunday.
Bruce Mouat and his team do not have that problem. Bruce, Duncan Menzies, Derrick Sloan and Angus Dowell are playing together all season. This will stand them in good stead. I expect them to be around come the play-off stages. Just this week, they reached the final of the EJCT competition in Thun, only to lose to Switzerland’s André Neuenschwander. They are doing well on the tour though and are the leading Scottish team, one point ahead of the Kyle Smith team and handily-placed at equal fifth.
What is pleasing about the Scottish junior men’s entry this year is the number of young teams that have entered the competition. I have already seen some of the names featuring in finals and the U17 slam series has helped develop a curling competitive edge in youngsters. The Scottish junior championships introduce the idea of ten-end games, fifth end breaks, coaches and all of the rest. I do hope that coaches are mindful of their duties to young and impressionable charges. Know when it is time to call your team off the ice and recognise that nobody tries to play bad shots. The one thing that youngsters do not need is an over-zealous coach shouting at them about percentages and missed out-turn hits!
The preliminary playdowns are in Perth, December 7-9, and the finals are in Aberdeen, January 23-27, 2013. Worth a trip!