When Jill Brothers walked into the Mayflower Curling Club Thursday afternoon, she was met with congratulations from nearly everyone in the building.
Brothers should get used to this type of support. In two weeks, Team Brothers will be representing Nova Scotia at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Sydney, N.S.
This will be Brothers’ fourth Scotties, but it’s her first time serving as the host team.
Originally from Liverpool, N.S., Brothers is fresh off winning the Nova Scotia Provincial Championships, upsetting a team skipped by former world champion Mary-Anne Arsenault.
Luck of the draw
Brothers said her confidence has never been more solid, but she wasn’t expecting to win provincials.
“Toe-to-toe, I know that we know how to beat these teams. Now, are you going to win in the proper week? Question mark,” said Brothers with a laugh.
“I have a decent track record against Mary-Anne, so I know she didn’t have the one-up on me. Sometimes you have players who have a one-up on you, and Mary-Anne has it on a lot of people because she is really good. So, because of our back and forth, I knew it could be anyone’s game on any day.”
The provincial round robin results swung in Brothers’ favour, with Team Arsenault losing their last round robin game, giving Team Brothers a direct route to the final. They would edge out Team Arsenault in the last end of the final to win 6-5.
The home team
For a team to play in the Scotties in their home province is an opportunity not many curlers get to experience during their careers. Brothers said there’s no added pressure.
“It’s exciting and just plain fun. It’s more fun than anything and we’re not a team that has a huge level of expectations. There are certain teams that will have high expectations to win the whole thing. The teams that have been Team Canada before, they have the higher pressure. If that was us in our home province, I think then we’d feel pressure. We’re not expected to win the Scotties, and we know that we’re not, and that’s okay,” said Brothers.
Team Brothers is coached by Taylor Ardiel. He has a busy couple of months ahead of him, as he will also be representing Nova Scotia in the 2019 Tim Horton’s Brier in March. But, for now, his focus is on the Scotties.
Ardiel said Brothers’ leadership will carry their team through the tournament and they will use the home-ice advantage as momentum.
“Jill’s got this ability to read the players that no one else does. She pulls up her teammates when they’re down,” said Ardiel. “The rolling of the crowd will build and put pressure on other teams. (Nova Scotians) are behind us.”
Brothers said to represent Nova Scotia in Nova Scotia is a rarity.
“When Jennifer Jones played in her first Scotties, she was in Manitoba. So as long as you don’t let it intimidate you, it’s amazing,” said Brothers.
The Mayflower Curling Club is known for producing great curlers, like Colleen Jones, who won two World Championships and six Scotties. Jones still plays out of the Mayflower Club.
“I feel so comfortable here and I started playing here when I was 19 when I moved to Halifax,” said Brothers. “I have always come back to the Mayflower. It’s just comfortable.”
A curling state of mind
When preparing for competition, Brothers said they always rely on their “loosey-goosey” approach.
“During provincials, you don’t have any time to fix anything. Whether it be within your throw, or you can maybe tweak strategy a little bit, but now that we have a chance to tweak a couple little things, we can correct things we noticed during provincials, but nothing major,” she said.
“You can’t change much because that will throw you right off.”
Last year the team didn’t make it past the Scotties semi-finals, which Brothers partly attributes to teammate Sara Murphy and herself being pregnant and having to deal with pregnancy related symptoms. This year, Brothers said her team has one thing other teams don’t.
“A lot of babies,” she said laughing. “Home ice advantage. Loosey-goosey. We’re here; we’re ready to make shots. Let’s just roll. We’re not analytical. As soon as you get wound up, you don’t have fun, and then you don’t perform well. I think we’re at our best when we just go out and play.”
Not taking the moment for granted
Brothers said her casual approach is her team’s best advantage. They treat every Scotties like it could be their last.
“There’s a lot of good teams in Nova Scotia, so you have to go and leave it all out there because there might not be another chance to do awesome at the Scotties,” she said. “So, you may as well just go and try your best and have fun, because if you don’t have fun, that’s a lot of time spent not enjoying yourself.”
For many of her teammates, 2019 is their second time at the Scotties.
“All of the sudden I was like ‘oh, when did I become the old lady veteran?,'” she said with a laugh. “So, it’ll be fun. We have loads of family support coming, which we obviously need.”
The Scotties Tournament of Hearts take place Feb. 16 to 24 at Centre 200 in Sydney, N.S.