WINNIPEG — Five years ago, brothers Josh and Tyler Drews weren’t concerned with trying to qualify for the men’s provincial curling championship, but that changed when they made their debut at the Selkirk Recreation Complex in 2016.
The week didn’t go too well for the Eriksdale products as they were only able to muster one win in the 32-team, modified double-knockout bonspiel.
Three years later, the Drews — with Tyler skipping and Josh playing third — are preparing for their third trip to the Viterra in four years.
“We didn’t try men’s that often before, we usually just stayed in a recreation league,” Tyler told The Interlake Spectator.
But now he wouldn’t turn back from playing on the Manitoba Curling Tour or trying to qualify for men’s provincials.
“It’s a really busy weekend to weekend schedule but I wouldn’t change it,” Tyler said. “I love playing higher level competition and it’s nice when you win some money in some of the events.”
The 29-year-old project manager estimator for Lundar-based Sigfusson Northern, his 30-year-old brother Josh and their Fort Rouge Curling Club teammates Daryl Evans and Andrew Evans earned one of the final three berths available into the Viterra, which is taking place at Tundra Oil & Gas Place in Virden from Feb. 6 to 10, by winning the B side of the Manitoba Open in Winnipeg on Jan. 21.
They qualified with a semifinal victory over Sean Grassie on Jan. 20 before completing the world’s largest bonspiel with a 9-1 record, knocking off Darren Perche in the final.
In fact, the Evans brothers were at a wedding on Jan. 19, so Tyler and Josh asked Manitoba Curling Hall of Fame inductee Ron Westcott to join them for two games that day — both wins.
“He played really well, he didn’t miss a beat,” Tyler said of Westcott, who wanted to join the team as its fifth in Virden but will be in Palm Springs, Calif., during the event.
The Fort Rouge squad lost their third game and had to rally off six straight wins just to earn their way to the Viterra for a second straight year. Andrew was the only one not on the team that reached the B-side semifinals — losing 6-5 in an extra end to Brandonite Steve Irwin — in Winkler last year, replacing Jake Zelenewich this season.
“For us, our top goal is making the final eight,” Tyler said. “We were in the top 16 last year so a couple of more wins and we’d be in the top eight.”
If the Drews are to make it to the final eight for the first time, they will need to show their ability to get out of jams with big-weighted shots and finesse draws.
“I would say we are a fairly strong hitting team,” Josh, who is said. “We like to play more open and then when that opportunity arises where we can maybe lay a rock in behind somewhere we like to really take advantage of that and roll with it.”
Josh, who works at a chemical plant in Winnipeg, while also sometimes serving as a substitute teacher in Eriksdale and Lundar, thinks Tyler is one of the best drawers on the MCT.
“You always want to play with the best people possible and he’s one of the best finishers I’ve seen on Tour,” Josh added. “It might not look pretty how he does it but he gets it done and that’s all you really want.”
They are brothers, so they are brtually honest with each other and don’t hold grudges against the another — “There may be the quick jab at Christmas dinner,” Tyler admitted — but they are proud of their Eriksdale roots and to represent the Interlake region at another Viterra.
“We usually play out of the Eriksdale men’s bonspiel and it’s nice to see the people there and they always ask us how the Tour is going and how curling is going,” Josh said. “We like to be able to go back there and show that sense of pride that we’ve been able to play back there.
“We started from there and we are doing all we can now.”
Other Interlake teams headed to Virden include Tanner Lott’s Winnipeg Beach foursome and the Gimli Curling Club squad skipped by Steen Sigurdson.
Defending champion Reid Carruthers and his crew from West St. Paul are seeded first and are the favourites to represent Manitoba at nationals in Brandon in March.