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Bruce Mouat is hoping that a return to the scene of his team’s greatest successes in 2019 will help get them back to winning ways heading into the New Year.

The 25-year-old skip and teammates Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie and Hammy McMillan suffered a rare setback in Perth earlier this season when they failed to reach the final of the three-team play-off which decided Scotland’s representatives at the European Championships in November, denying them the chance to defend that title. 

However, they remain the top Scots in the world rankings and will be back on the Dewar’s Centre ice as reigning champions when the star-studded Perth Masters, supported by the Mercure Perth Hotel, gets underway this weekend (Jan 2-5).

There will be a new look to the event this year, since there is, for the first time, a women’s competition which has also attracted a powerful field and a change of format which sees teams drawn in pools, rather than the Triple Knockout system that was previously in place.

“We always love playing at Perth, whether in the Masters or the Scottish Championship because they always put on great ice and a great event,” said Mouat.

“Now that they’ve combined both the Perth Masters and the Perth Ladies it should make for a great weekend and we know there’s going to be a very strong field in both competitions. That’s hopefully going to encourage spectators to come and view some of the great curlers that are going to be there.

“Hopefully we can play well, defend our title and get back into our winning ways that we’ve had in our first two seasons together, but have been struggling to get to in the first half of this season. So, we’re very excited to start competing in the New Year.”

With former world and Olympic champion Brad Gushue joined in crossing the Atlantic by another multiple Grand Slam winning skip Mike McEwen, the Canadian challenge is a powerful one and nine countries in all are represented in the 24-team men’s event. 

Mouat has avoided both in the round-robin qualifying pool stages, as well as the domestic rivals who got the better of his men in those Euro play-downs earlier in the season, but he tellingly noted that the pool draw has given them a valuable opportunity to face one of the up and coming forces in the Scottish game.

“It is always a great opportunity to play in Perth ahead of the Scottish the following month and with the Scottish looking like it’s going to be so hotly contested this year in the men’s field, we are going to try to learn as much as we can ahead of that,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll get to play some really tough opposition, including having Ross Whyte in our section which will be the first time we play him this season.”

Whyte’s team has the extra advantage of local knowledge to call upon, with Perth curlers Robin Brydone and Duncan McFadzean in their line-up, which also includes Euan Kyle and they come into the event in exceptional form.

In their first season playing full-time on the senior men’s tour they have reached the knockout stages of all nine events they have contested, picking up two titles, at the Prague Classic and on their last outing, in the Dumfries Challenger Series event, at Whyte’s home rink, their only appearance on Scottish ice this season.

“It’s been a fantastic season so far,” said the 21-year-old skip.

“We’re just going to keep working on it and look to keep getting better as the season goes on. We feel we can add to it and make it a very, very successful year.

“We had a great weekend in Dumfries just before the Christmas break. Hopefully we can get as good a grip of the ice in Perth as we did there and continue our run of form. We’ve just been enjoying playing as a team this year, we’re really training hard in the gym and on the ice at the NCA. 

“This will be a great preparation for the Scottish in February, which is going to be a big month for all the Scottish teams, pushing for the main goal of the year and we know we can’t stop training as hard as we are now if we’re going to give ourselves the best chance to go on to the Scottish and compete with the best in Scotland.”

Like Mouat, he welcomed the changes to the event, in particular the way it has been combined with the women’s competition.

“The field at the Perth Masters is very strong. It’s going to be a real battle,” said Whyte.

“Last year we had a great run at the Perth Masters, with a slightly different team, making it through the A road before losing to fellow Scots Team Muirhead. We’re hoping we can make it to the quarters again this year and any further will be fantastic for us.

“The change of format to groups will make it a bit different, but we’re looking forward to the challenge in a very tough group. We cannot wait to test ourselves out against some of the best again as we start a New Year.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the girls event thrive this year. It always brings a different atmosphere when the women are there as well as the men and that will add something extra to it. Hopefully that will bring in more of a crowd and make it an even more successful competition.” 

The women’s event will also be played in a group format, with 15 teams from eight countries represented with the foreign challenge led by current Asian champions Team Han from China and Switzerland’s two-time world champion Binia Feltscher.

Fellow former world champion Eve Muirhead led her team to victory at the inaugural Perth Ladies International four years ago and demonstrated her return to form by reaching the final of the recent European Championships, while reigning national champions Team Jackson will also be confident as they return to the scene of that Scottish Championship success.

Eleven games from the new look event will be televised live on BBC ALBA from Friday through to the quarter finals, semi finals and the finals on the fourth and final day of the World Curling Tour event.

BBC ALBA’s commentary team will comprise guest analyst and 2002 world champion Jackie Lockhart alongside sport commentator Hugh Dan MacLennan.

The BBC ALBA live coverage is as follows: 

Friday 3 January 2020

10:45 Team Muirhead v Team Han
16:30 Team Schori v Team MacDonald

Saturday 4 January 2020

17:30 Team Wrana v Team Jackson
21:00 Team Muirhead v Team Schori

Sunday 5 January 2020

08:00 Quarter Finals (men’s / women’s)
11:00 Semi Finals (men’s / women’s)
14:00 Final 1 (men’s or women’s)
15:30 Final 2 (men’s or women’s)

In addition, the event is being supported by the World Curling Federation who will be providing live webcasts from Perth. For the schedule and further information from the 2020 Perth Masters supported by Mercure Perth Hotel, please follow the link to the event. 

Or follow the link to the 2020 Perth Masters social media channels for the latest updates or Twitter @PerthMasters

Photos: Perthshire Picture Agency – Graeme Hart

BBC ALBA is available on the following platforms:

• Sky 141

• Freeview / You View 7 (Scotland only)

• Virgin Media 161 (UK)

• Freesat 109 (UK)

• BBC iPlayer

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