YORKTON - Saskatchewan curling fans will of course recognize the name Matt Dunstone.
Dunstone has skipped team Saskatchewan at the last two Canadian Briers.
At the Brier, his rink finished the round robin and championship pool with an 8–3 record which qualified them for the 1 vs. 2 game against Alberta's Brendan Bottcher. They lost the game 9–4 and then lost the semi-final to Newfoundland and Labrador's Gushue, settling for a bronze medal.
Of course in 2021 the Saskatchewan provincial championships were cancelled due to COVID and the Dunstone rink was invited to rep the province again at the national championship.
At the Brier, Dunstone led his team to a 9–3 record, qualifying for the playoffs as the second seed. Again facing Brendan Bottcher in the semi-final, they lost 6–5, and would have to settle for the bronze medal for a second straight year.
Now, Dunstone is getting involved with growing the game in addition to continuing to play, being part of the trio behind the upcoming SGI Canada Best of the West Under-30 Curling Championship set for April 22 to 24, 2022, at the Nutana Curling Club in Saskatoon.
The event will see 24 teams — eight each in the men’s, women’s and doubles division — from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba and Saskatchewan competing in the three-day event.
Dunstone said it is an event which was needed in his mind.
“It’s definitely overdue, that’s for sure,” he said in a recent interview, adding he has long been a proponent of giving younger curlers an avenue to improve.
It’s very tough coming out of Juniors,” he said.
Dunstone noted the average age at the Scotties (Women’s finals) this year was 32 and at the Brier 36, meaning a player coming out of Juniors at 20 has 12 or 13 years before they are ready “to play on the biggest stage.”
The new tournament looks to be something of a bridge for developing players.
“I can take some credit for being an advocate for younger curlers across Canada,” said Dunstone, who added in the case of the new event it was a jointly created concept with Rylan Kleiter, and Dustin Mikush.
Of course Dunstone is keenly aware of what it takes to jump from Junior to the top level of the game.
Dunstone won the Canadian Junior Curling Championships in 2013, and represented Canada at the 2013 World Junior Curling Championships, where he won the bronze medal.
He would again represent Manitoba in 2016, going on to win Canadian title and representing Canada at the 2016 World Junior Curling Championships, winning a bronze medal.
The next stop up though is the big one.
“As a young person that’s not super easy,” said Dunstone, adding players need opportunities to grow their game.
“Hopefully this event -- players under 30 can learn from it.”
And, Dunstone said they hope the event proves popular and grows, largely because young curlers need the high level of competition. That growth could include ‘qualifying’ events leading up to the finals in the year ahead, although in year one teams will be there based on qualifying criteria.
Tournament format will have each of the eight teams to be split into four each in Pool A and B where they will play three games in the round robin. The top two teams after the elimination round will advance to the semifinals with the winners moving on to the championship match. The men’s and women’s team champions will take home $10,000 each while the doubles division winner gets $5,000.