Black Press Sports
The Olympic trials in 2013 and the Brier in 2014 both ended in heartbreaking finishes for John Morris, Jim Cotter and their Okanagan team.
Now, after two seasons apart, Morris, Cotter, Tyrel Griffith and Rick Sawatsky are back together to take another run at curling’s biggest prizes.
Morris replaces third Ryan Kuhn, who left the team last month to spend more time with his young famly. Morris is a nine-time Brier veteran and rejoins B.C’s top team of the past five years.
“There were a lot of great curlers and great people who were asking what we were planning to do, and when we found out John was interested, it just seemed like the best fit,” said Griffith, who plays second on the Vernon/Kelowna foursome.
“It made sense in so many ways, we went through a lot together before and we all want to get back to where we were and take another run at the ultimate goal in the sport.”
Morris, a 37-year-old Calgary firefighter, helped Cotter qualify for the 2013 Olympic Trials and the 2014 Brier in Kamloops. Morris joined Pat Simmons’ Calgary rink in 2015.
Cotter told The Morning Star his rink held a conference call with Morris last week to confirm the move.
“We’re pretty fortunate a guy like John was available after Ryan stepped away,” said Cotter. “John brings a lot to the table in the form of sponsorships and you can never have enough sponsorship.”
Morris will call the shots and Cotter will make them as skip in what will be a hectic season.
“We’ll be in Vernon (cashspiel),” said Cotter. “That’s guaranteed. Our goal is to go in the larger cashspiels and all the Slam events. Our ultimate goal is to get the top spot in the Olympic Trials.”
Morris struck gold with Kevin Martin at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
The ultimate prize, of course, is the 2018 Olympic Games in South Korea.
Team Morris, as it will be known once again, came agonizingly close to earning a trip to the 2014 Olympics in Vancouver, but lost the trials final in Winnipeg to Brad Jacobs.
Five months later, Morris, Cotter and company were on the doorstep again at the Brier in Kamloops, but came up short in the decisive game against Kevin Koe.
Griffiths said both the experience gained and disappointment endured by the Vernon/Kelowna team in one season can only benefit them in the 2016-17 season.
“That season (2013-14), it was a new team and it took us a while to come together,” Griffith said. “But we just kept getting better and better. We played amazing at the Brier, we just had one game that we didn’t bring our best.
“Having gone through this before, I think what we learned and know now is huge. We’ll have an extra year together, so I think that’ll be a big advantage for us.”
In addition to their curling abilities, Griffith expects the various personalities to mix well together.
“Jimmy, Rick and I are pretty easy-going guys and we get along well with John,” said Griffith. “He’ll bring a real fire to our rink and I think the guys are excited to get going. We know what our dreams and goals are and we’re motivated by that.”