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Team Newfoundland and Labrador coach eager to work her first Brier

Leslie Anne Walsh will coach skip Greg Smith's Team N.L. at next week's Brier.
Leslie Anne Walsh will coach skip Greg Smith's Team N.L. at next week's Brier. — Contributed

Leslie Anne Walsh excited to work with Greg Smith's rink

CALGARY, Alta. —

In this day and age of curling “bubbles,” it seems only fitting Leslie Anne Walsh is doing some Tim Hortons Brier advance scouting from the comfort of her living room.

Walsh is coaching the Newfoundland and Labrador representatives, skipped by Greg Smith, at the Brier which opens next Friday at the Markin MacPhail Centre at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

Like the Scotties Tournament of Hearts ongoing in the same Calgary rink, the Brier will be played inside a “strictly enforced,” no-fans bubble, where daily temperature testing of the athletes and coaches is expected to be the norm.

It will be a different national men’s championship, to say the least, but Walsh is still looking forward to coaching in her first Brier after coaching at the Scotties two years ago, and at the national juniors before that.


“Nervous but excited,” said the St. John’s native, who’s been around curling rinks as both an athlete and coach for years. “This is a dream come true.”

She was last at the nationals in 2019, guiding Kelli Sharpe’s team at the Scotties in Sydney, N.S.

The Smith team, out of the ReMax Centre/St. John’s Curling Club and Bally Haly, asked Walsh l to come on board for the 2020-21 season... if there was one because of the pandemic.

“I said, ‘Absolutely!’” Walsh recalls. “But if we’re going to do this, we have to give 110 per cent. I want to work hard at it.”

Walsh has known Smith since his junior days, and says all four curlers on the team are, “very coachable.”

Curling since the 1990s, Walsh played competitively at lead, on teams that lost a couple of provincial women’s finals to Cathy Cunningham. Walsh attended the 2002 mixed nationals with Ken Peddigrew, and soon turned her attention to coaching, first with the juniors. She also coaches wheelchair curling.


Team N.L. skip Greg Smith in action at the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier. Smith returns to lead Team N.L. at the 2021 Brier next week in Calgary. - File photo - SaltWire Network
Team N.L. skip Greg Smith in action at the 2018 Tim Hortons Brier. Smith returns to lead Team N.L. at the 2021 Brier next week in Calgary. - File photo - SaltWire Network

On the Smith foursome, which also includes vice-skip Greg Blyde, and brothers Evan and Alex McDonah, who originally hail from Truro, N.S. , on the front end, Walsh has done a lot of technical work, especially in relation to mental training.

“From a strategy perspective,” she said, “I don’t think they need a whole lot of help with that. They can have a sounding board in me, whether they should play this shot or that shot. At this level, teams should know their game by now before going to the Brier.

“When they asked me to coach them, I said, ‘You’re skilled enough. We just need to fine-tune a few things.’

“My philosophy is once you get to this level, everybody throws a great rock. So why do we lose? It has nothing to do with the technical side of it. It’s definitely the mental toughness.”

That mental preparation work certainly paid off in the Tankard provincial men’s championship last month in St. John’s.

In the final against the Colin Thomas team from St. John’s, Thomas held a slim 3-2 lead at the fifth-end break, but Smith scored two in the sixth.

That set the stage for a big four-ender from Thomas in the seventh, giving him a 7-4 lead.

“That was a huge punch in the gut,” said Smith following the final. “I was a hair heavy on my last shot (in the seventh end), and there was no curl. Actually, my last two shots were thrown well. But what do you do? That’s curling sometimes.


“My philosophy is once you get to this level, everybody throws a great rock. So why do we lose? It has nothing to do with the technical side of it. It’s definitely the mental toughness.” — Leslie Anne Walsh


“We reminded ourselves we were only down three, with hammer in eight.”

“The conversation,” said Walsh, “was, ‘Let’s get two here, then we get two more. We have loads of time.

“A few years ago, without any conversation, it would be, ‘Oh my God, we gave up four!’”

Walsh describes Smith as being "a student of the game.”

She’s certainly no slouch, either, as curling is definitely in the blood. She is tuning into each of the Scotties draws, not to scout the curlers, but rather take notes on the ice in Calgary.

“See how it changes throughout the game, if it’s straighter on one side, and if there’s more curl on the other (on different sheets).

“That may all change before the Brier starts, but at least if it doesn’t, we’ll know ahead of time (how it reacts).”

Robin Short is the Telegram's Sports Editor. [email protected] | Twitter: @TelyRobinShort


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