In less than a weeks’ time, four of the top English men’s teams will be competing to win the right to represent England at the 2020 European Curling Championships. Last years’ winning team, skipped by Andrew Reed, has combined with Andrew Woolston’s rink to form a new outfit for this season. They will take on Team Retchless, Team Rees and Team Brand over the four-day competition that will start on Thursday 6 February. The teams will play a double round robin followed by a final, which will take place on Sunday 9 February.
Andrew Reed and Andrew Woolston have played together in various formats for more than a decade but will now be back on the same team at the English Championships after a two-year hiatus.
Andrew Woolston said about joining forces with Andrew Reed: “After losing out to Reedy two years in a row, we agreed that for the best interests of English Curling, Andrew and myself should team up in some form. With England being in the A-Division of the European Championships this year, I went as part of Team Reed which then tied led to us playing together. Playing the Europeans in Helsingborg was ten-year dream for me. Since 2010 we have been very close on various occasions, but never managed to achieve promotion. Having the experience of playing Europe’s best teams on great ice will help us at the English this week.”
“This years’ championships will be as tough as the last 15 I have played, and our expectations is to curl as well as we can against all the teams. The key to success will be consistency, which hopefully by playing the World Qualification Event, competitions in Scotland and various training sessions at the National Curling Academy, we should have the hang of it.”
Andrew Woolston | © WCF / Richard Gray
Gregg Dunn’s team has this year brought on a new player – Rob Retchless. Rob will join the long-established team formerly skipped by Greg Dunn.
Greg said about the new line-up: “Rob Retchless is curling with us this year. He is an English Canadian curler who currently lives in Toronto, Canada, and is eligible to play for England via birth right. In fact, most of us our team learned to curl on the other side of the Atlantic. Though fundamentally the game doesn’t differ anywhere in the world, Canada does have a lot of curlers, which leads to a higher quality of play.”
“All the teams in the National Championships are important and we have a healthy rivalry and respect on ice against all of them. We’ve practiced regularly, have played in Canada and several other tournaments and have even beaten a couple of teams in the top 100 in the world rankings. We’re playing well, we’re winning and we’re ready!”
Greg Dunn | © WCF / Jeffrey Au
Stuard Brand, who is the current English Mixed Champion, will be leading his men’s team into the arena for a third consecutive year.
Stuart said about the competition: “We have played together as a team in the men’s championships last year, and three of us the previous year, so it’s been a bit of an evolution of the team over a few years. With the changes to the other top teams in the English men’s this year, the standard has become more demanding (Reed/Woolston merging and Dunn bringing in Rob Retchless from Canada). We know that we are not one of the favourites, but we believe that if we play at our best, we can give every team in the championship a serious challenge.”
“During the championships, we’ll be focusing on sticking together when things aren’t going our way. It’s easy to be a solid team when winning, but how we react to adversity will define how the week goes.”
Stuart Brand | © WCF / Richard Gray
Owen Rees, who has done enormous amounts over the past years to support development of curling in England, will be leading his team into the championships. The team made up of Owen, Jamie White, Stephen Lea, Ben Everly, and Mark Foley, have been playing together since the beginning of last season and curl out of Fenton’s Rink.
Owen said: “We are incredibly proud to represent Fenton’s Rink! We have some fantastic curlers down here in the south of England, including other teams competing in the men’s and women’s championships at both adult and junior level. Fenton’s is a great facility that we are very lucky to have, as without it our curling options would be incredibly few and far between! Despite this, it is always fun to travel and play at other rinks, and we look forward to seeing everyone based further north.”
“There are fewer teams this year, but we know it is likely to be tougher competition than ever before. Each of our opponents will present a tough challenge and will fully believe that they can get to the finals if they play their best. We expect all the games to be tough but know we can find success if we play our best as well.”
The event is free to watch live at the Dumfries Ice Bowl and some of the games will be streamed live on the Dumfries Curling YouTube channel. The scores will also be updated live on Curling Zone.
Team line-ups and competition schedule included below.
Team Brand – Stuart Brand, Cameron Clark, Martin Gregory and Dan Arrandale
Team Rees – Owen Rees, Jamie White, Stephen Lea, Mark Foley and Ben Everly
Team Retchless – Rob Retchless, Greg Dunn, Jonathan Havercroft, Ian Gasson and James Burman
Team Woolston – Andrew Woolston, Andrew Reed, Scott Gibson, Fraser Clark and Ben Fowler
Day one – 6 Feb
7pm – Brand vs Rees, Retchless vs Woolston
Day two – 7 Feb
10am – Rees vs Retchless, Woolston vs Brand
5pm – Brand vs Retchless, Woolston vs Rees
Day three – 8 Feb
10am – Brand vs Woolston, Retchless vs Rees
3pm – Woolston vs Retchless, Rees vs Brand
Day four – 9 Feb
10am – Rees vs Woolston, Retchless vs Brand
3pm – Final