Matthew Hunt is happy to be back throwing stones with a chance at winning the provincial men’s curling championship with no Brad Gushue in the picture.
Gushue, a dominant force in provincial men’s curling circles for more than a decade, automatically qualified for the 2018 Brier by winning the 2017 Brier.
With Gushue wearing Team Canada’s colours, Hunt believes his rink has as good a shot as any of the other eight teams in the mix for this year’s championship event that got underway Monday at the ReMax Centre in St. John’s.
Hunt is playing the role of third on the Greg Smith foursome out of ReMax Centre that also includes second Andrew Taylor and lead Ian Withycombe. Joseph Murphy is the coach for the Smith rink.
Hunt took a step back from the competitive grind for a couple of years to focus his energy on his education. Today, he works as a tax paper services agent for Revenue Canada and things fell into place for him to return to curling this year.
Hunt said he had chatted with his buddy Andrew Taylor a couple of years ago about playing in the provincial men’s curling tournament and the subject came up again last year when it was determined that Gushue wouldn’t be in the mix this year because he had won the 2017 Brier.
Over the summer, Taylor called Hunt out of the blue and asked him what he was doing. Hunt told him he was just relaxing and that’s when Taylor asked him to drop over to his house.
When he arrived Smith and Taylor talked to him about the possibilities of forming a team for the Tankard. They agreed to give it a shot and called Withycombe. He told Hunt he was in, so the team is now poised to challenge for a new championship.
Hunt admits the thought of Gushue not being in the provincial field probably generated more interest. There is now one of the largest fields registered than has been in the past 10 years or so.
“It’s anybody’s game,” Hunt said of the field he will face this week.
He said a lot of good curlers didn’t compete in last year’s event because they feared Gushue would be practically unbeatable so they stayed home.
“Everybody knew Brad was going to win so there was no point in spending the time or money, but now everybody has a chance,” Hunt said.
He’s not letting pressure get to him or the team. He said the key for his team is to go out and have fun and not worry about the scoreboard and that’s what he’s planning to do.
“We’re going to keep it loose and we’re going to have to fun, and we’re going to go out and play well and, hopefully, win,” he said.
Hunt and the Greg Smith rink downed the Dave Thomas rink 11-3 after Thomas conceded after the eight end. Hunt and his teammates are scheduled to play Trent Skanes' rink on Tuesday at 2:30 p.m.