Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cricketers in hack just for fun

Kiwis, Brits and a 'Pegger form rink for good times

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CRICKET, anyone?

No? OK, curling then -- but in our all-whites, with our cricket bats, white helmets and knee pads, if you don't mind.

If anyone thought the MCA Bonspiel had lost its capacity for good times despite the reduced participation, a group of five cricket players from the Taverners Club are putting that one to rest at the 121st running this week.


Put two New Zealanders (Philip Munro-Smith, Sid Roberts) together with two Brits (Neal Toulson, Jon Page) and toss in one non-curling Canadian (Keith James) and what do you have?

A whole lot of fun, even after Friday's second loss in the 412-team bonspiel that's called the largest in the world. On the heels of falling something like 12-1 Thursday night, they at least scored two points in Friday afternoon's loss.

Munro-Smith is the band leader of the group and he skipped Thursday's game, although he was deposed, he snickers in his Kiwi accent, in favour of Page after the opening loss.

But he and the other members of the Taverners Cricket Club are having a blast at the MCA, using a cricket bat instead of a broom for shooters to aim their rocks at and using cricket knee pads while sliding out of the hack -- if you can call it that.

"I got fired (Thursday) night after our first game," said Munro-Smith, 52. "I didn't even get to shake hands and they decided then. They had a team bird (tantrum) and I was gone because we lost."

The Taverners -- wearing complimentary black jackets given them by Asham Curling Supplies -- hogged rocks and put them through the house Friday, but still kept to their mantra: "We're here to have fun. That's all it is."

The group plays competitive cricket every Wednesday night at Assiniboine Park in the summertime and at either Wellington School or Burton Cummings Community Centre in the winter.

The common theme is all of them wanted to play in an MCA.

"Canadians grow up playing curling and skating and ice hockey, we play cricket," said Munro-Smith.

When they entered the bonspiel, they had one broom, one slider and one gripper between them. A friend helped them out with more equipment and here they are.

"None of us has curled much before, really. And we were at the pub after cricket one night and I said, 'I want to curl in the bonspiel, who's in?' And four hands shot up and that's the team."

He said opposing teams understand right away that there's no serious intent on winning on their part.

"It's just another thing we can put down on our resumé, professional curlers or something. There's beer involved, that's always a plus."

James, meanwhile, is the only Winnipegger.

He grew up in what is arguably the world's curling mecca as a non-curler. So what does he do? Take up a foreign sport like cricket and then gets into the MCA with two Kiwis and two Brits.

"They're just a bunch of irreverent guys and if you can handle the abuse, you stay with the club," he chuckled. "I've always wanted to be in the MCA Bonspiel, but I've never had anybody, or the courage to ask three other guys.

"So Phil asked, 'Anybody want to go?' My hand was up right away because this is a legendary Winnipeg event.

"You've got to do it once in your life. But we're enjoying it already, so I think we'll probably do it again -- which is really kind of cool."

Our mistake

In what may be proof that we've got granite between our ears rather than brains, we reported Friday that last year's MCA Bonspiel attracted 441 teams.

In fact, only 401 foursomes registered in 2008. That means the 412 that entered the 121st bonspiel in 2009 is actually an increase, not a decrease, over last year. We acknowledge the hogline violation.

'Arch' de triomphe

MCA curler Don Benson sent us his own curling club restaurant review. Here it is.

"Today we ate at the Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club. The two soups were tremendous but we all had the "Big Arch Burger" and wow!! It was sooo big and only $4.75 for the burger. This is our fave lunch so far at the curling clubs."

From boys to men

Kyle Peters and his team won the Manitoba juniors last year and finished 7-9 at the Canadian championship, but now they're competing for a spot in the Safeway Championship in the men's division at the 2009 MCA.

"This is the first year we're actually in men's," said Peters, who's from Morden. "We were always serious before but before it was always as juniors and now we're men so it means a lot to us because it's our last chance to get to the (Safeway)."

Notable scores

(Before Friday night's draws)

Randy Dutiaume 5 Braden Zawada 1

Murray Woodward 8 J. Goodwin 3

Ken Lowdon 8 Brendan Taylor 2

Tony Silvari 7 John Boswick 4

Sam Antila 6 Dave Elias 4

Mike Mahon 6 Kyle Peters 5

Travis Bale 9 Andrew Wickman 5

Norm Magnusson 6 Brian Penston 3

Doug Riach 7 Francois Lambert 2

Dave Smith 8 Paul Armstrong 6

Dave Bambenek 9 Troy Hamilton 3

Mike Mahon 6 Jamie Hay 5


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 31, 2009 D3

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