Brewster revives Olympic ambitions as Muirhead powers relentlessly on
EMOTIONS may have spilled over at the end but after leading his new team to victory over the one he was with when they reached an Olympic final two years ago, Tom Brewster was at pains to stress that there are no hard feelings.
The Aberdeen-based 41-year-old could have been forgiven for feeling differently since he had been the skip who steered the emergence as senior champion players of Greg Drummond, Scott Andrews and Michael Goodfellow, only to be ousted and replaced at the head of that team by fellow veteran David Murdoch, a friend, occasional teammate and lifelong rival.
The frustration felt at losing a second successive Scottish Championship final momentarily overcame Drummond who showed how much a defeat, which has potentially serious ramifications for what is now Team Murdoch, meant by thrashing his broom against one of the stones and ripping the handle from it.
Officialdom may frown, but observers of a competitive disposition will understand, just as Brewster philosophically accepts that those seeking to maximise their chances of success did what they felt they must in 2014.
“It’s not their fault,” he said of his removal as skip and effective relegation to the role of alternate (travelling reserve for the Olympic campaign).
“There were loads of circumstances and that was the way the coach felt the team should go and I medalled, too.
“I’ve got that medal at home and I take great pride in the fact that five years ago we won this championship and that started the road for them and myself and Dave (Murdoch) came along and has rightly taken over the team.
“At the end of the day they’re all full time and I wasn’t willing to move down to Stirling when I had a young family and a great job with great employers. It was a huge decision, but I’m passionate about the sport and it’s my life really.”
While his 40th birthday has come and gone since that trip to Sochi in 2014, Brewster has not let his ambition to play in a Winter Olympics fade, and has consequently helped build another potential dream team with Glen Muirhead — older brother of Scotland’s female skip Eve — as his third, while Hammy MacMillan — part of another curling dynasty — leads and Ross Paterson, flamboyant and seasoned in equal measure, is their second.
After a cagey start to the final they took control with a three at the fifth end and, as the week’s form team – having lost just once in 10 previous games – never looked like releasing their hold, a 5-4 final score belying the extent of their second-half control of the 10-end final.
Having led his former team to World Championship finals on the back of his two previous Scottish title wins as skip, Brewster believes they can do well in Basel in April, albeit he knows it will be another step up.
“I don’t see why not, but there are some really solid teams there with huge experience,” he said of the prospect of going one better than collecting silvers in both 2011 and 2012, citing the vastly experienced Ulsrud and Edin rinks from Norway and Sweden respectively, as major obstacles to success, along with the inevitable threat posed by the Canadians and tough opposition from both Switzerland and the USA.
As a group they have more than Brewster’s experience to lean on since MacMillan’s father was world champion in 1999 with Muirheads among his team, while before they head to Switzerland both the latter’s younger sister and his girlfriend, Anna Sloan, will team up at the women’s World Championship.
Along with Vicki Adams it will be their fourth together — lead Sarah Reid joined them last season after Team Muirhead claimed their bronze medal at Sochi — and, ranked fourth in the world, they will be among the favourites.
Unbeaten through the round-robin stages at the national championships this time around they cruised into the women’s Scottish Championship final on the back of eight successive wins, but were made to work for their title after opponents Team Gray seized the momentum at the fourth end of the final by claiming a three.
Muirhead’s response was instant and conclusive as a single to tie things up at the interval was followed immediately after by a stolen double at the sixth and when that was repeated at the eighth they had an all but unassailable 8-4 lead which they held until the end.
Their World Championship is in Swift Current, Saskatchewan, scene of fond memories for Muirhead since, on the back of four World Junior Championship wins as a teenager, it was there she announced herself at senior level by skipping Scotland to the final in 2010.
GET IN: Tom Brewster, left, and Hammy McMillan celebrate their Scottish title win.