SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — This isn’t the first time John Morris has been involved with a lineup change in the middle of a big curling event. You may remember the last time, even if Morris doesn’t (or pretends not to).
“When was that? I don’t remember,” said a chuckling Morris when asked about it Friday morning at Credit Union Place during the 2017 Home Hardware Road to the Roar Pre-Trials. For Morris’s benefit, we will tell you that it happened during the 2015 Tim Hortons Brier in Calgary, where Morris was skipping Team Canada.
After a rough opening three days of the Brier, Morris demoted himself to third, giving shot-calling and last-rock duties to Pat Simmons. Six days later, that juggled lineup was hoisting the Brier Tankard after Simmons drew to the button for the extra-end victory in the gold-medal game.
This time around, it’s Morris taking over last-rock duties on the Vernon team he was skipping (while throwing third rocks), with regular last-rock thrower Jim Cotter now throwing third. It paid off on Friday morning with a solid 8-4 win over Winnipeg’s Jason Gunnlaugson, lifting Team Morris to a 3-2 record and firmly in the playoff picture in Pool A, while Gunnlaugson dropped to 2-3.
“We haven’t really been on all year; made a few quarterfinals but we haven’t found that magic yet,” explained Morris, who won Olympic gold in 2010 playing third for Kevin Martin.
“We just felt we needed to make a little change; we’re looking at it as positive as we can, that we still have control of our own destiny and if we win two games today, we’re in great shape going int the weekend.”
The decision was made Thursday night during a heart-to-heart between Morris and Cotter.
“Jim and I went for a beer after the game last night; the great thing about Jim is that he’s like a brother to me; he just wants to win,” said Morris. “He’s the same as me; it doesn’t matter what position we’re playing — he just wants to win. “He was feeling like he’s mentally and physically strong; he just hasn’t been getting the results he was looking for. Jim would do absolutely anything for the team, anything for his family, anything for his friends. He’s such a great guy. So just he said, ‘What’s our best move going forward?’ ”
This move paid off; the Morris team was scored at 90 for the game, and really didn’t give Gunnlaugson a sniff en route to the win.
“Sometimes if a team ain’t firing, and you keep spinning your wheels in the mud, it’s frustrating for the team and sometimes a shakeup here or there isn’t a bad thing,” said Morris. “You have to make sure you do it at the right time and have everyone on board. We’re all on board a hundred per cent, and Jimmy played fantastic out there today. He was Jimmy the Kid that we all know. It was great to see; he gave me some easy shots out there, and now we’re all gung-ho going forward. We’ll see what happens. It’s desperate curling now; that’s what gets me going.”
Morris took on Charley Thomas of Edmonton (5-1) in opening round playoff action Saturday morning, with the winner going into a qualifying game for the 2017 Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Sunday morning.
Morris fell 4-3 in an extra end to Glenn Howard of Etobicoke, Ont. Friday evening to go 3-3 in Pool A preliminary round action.