Team Jess Smith win NZ Women's title three-handed

Brett Sargon and Holly Thompson, winners of the Wendy Becker Trophy for Sportsmanship
Brett Sargon and Holly Thompson, winners of the Wendy Becker Trophy for Sportsmanship. Photo © NZ Curling / Liz Matthews

21 Jun 2022 – Team Sean Becker and Team Jessica Smith are the New Zealand Men's and Women's Curling Champions for 2022 following the national championships at MCI Naseby last weekend.

Smith's win was remarkable as they lost the experienced Bridget Becker from their squad to illness after the opening game. So Jessica Smith, Holly Thompson and Natalie Thurlow played their remainder of the tournament three-handed, winning every game along the way.

Five Women's teams and eight Men's – the biggest field in 12 years – started their event on Thursday afternoon. Each Championship played a full round robin, with the top four from each gender then qualifying for playoffs.

Teams Jess Smith and Grace Apuwai-Bishop were both unbeaten when they met in the last Women's draw. Smith's rink won the game in textbook fashion by scoring multiples with hammer and restricting their opponent to singles, winning the contest 10-4. Eleanor Adviento finished with a 2-2 record, and Michelle Bong claimed the remaining playoff spot with their last-round win over Joanna Olszewski.

Eleanor Adviento hit top gear in their semi-final over Grace Apuwai-Bishop, and were ahead 10-2 when handshakes were offered after the seventh end. Jess Smith faced a tough challenge from Michelle Bong in the other semi, eventually running their opponents out of stones in the last end with the score at 6-4.

The Women's final saw a flurry of points in the opening ends and the teams were tied at 4-4 after three. Team Smith then slowly gained the upper hand, and their victory was sealed in the seventh end. They stole three points when a hit from their opponent saw the shooter roll out, and claimed the gold medal 11-6.

So it was a well-earned silver for Eleanor Adviento, Thivya Turner, Tess Farley and Ariel Webber. Team Michelle Bong (with Ruby Kinney, Olivia Russell and Lucy Neilson) continued their rise throughout the tournament to win the bronze medal match 8-4 over Grace Apuwai-Bishop.

Sean Becker wins 12th Men's title

Team Anton Hood were undefeated through the Men's round-robin and looked like the side to beat. Peter de Boer's foursome dropped just the one game to Hood, while Benjamin Frew and Sean Becker both qualified for the semi-finals with a 4-3 record.

Team Peter de Boer faced Benjamin Frew in the semi-final and made the most of their scoring opportunities, registering three triples on their way to an 11-4 win. Team Sean Becker had played their way into top form through the earlier games, and their accuracy gave them a 3-1 lead over Anton Hood by the fourth end break. They stole two in the next, and that proved too much for Hood to recover from as Becker booked his place in the final 6-3.

The Men's final lived up to expectations as a tight and exciting match. Peter de Boer scored a triple in the fourth end to take a 3-2 lead into the break. Sean Becker hit back immediately after with a double to take a lead that they didn't relinquish, and Becker scored the single he needed in the last to win the match 6-4 and claim the gold medal for himself, Warren Dobson, Scott Becker, James Becker and Dean McAuley. Sean Becker has now won this event 12 times; it was the ninth win for Warren Dobson and Scott Becker.

Peter de Boer, Warren Kearney, Simon Neilson and Phil Dowling won the silver medal.

Team Benjamin Frew jumped out to an early 5-1 lead in the bronze medal match against Anton Hood. But Hood, Ben Smith, Brett Sargon and Hunter Walker then rediscovered the precision they had shown through the round-robin to score two, and then a remarkable series of steals to secure the bronze medal 9-5.

Holly Thompson and Brett Sargon were the popular recipients of the Wendy Becker Trophy for Sportsmanship, voted on by the players at the tournament.

This event was the last chance for the national selectors to view the players contending for the 2022 NZ Men's and Women's teams. The sides to represent New Zealand at the inaugural Pan Continental Curling Championship later this year will be announced in the next two weeks. It replaces both the Pacific-Asia Championship and the Americas Challenge.