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CURLING

A WEE HISTORY

The ancient Scottish game of curling was introduced to New Zealand over a hundred years ago, probably by the early goldminers. The oldest club in existence, dating from 1795, is the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the Mother Club of clubs in Scotland, Canada, the United States and Sweden as well as in New Zealand.

The first club in New Zealand was the Haldon Club in the Mackenzie Country, but it only lasted for a few years. The Dunedin Club was formed in 1873, the first Secretary/Treasurer being Mr T Calendar, (the father of curling), who was also credited with establishing the game properly in New Zealand. The Mt Ida Club in Naseby was formed in 1878 and games between Dunedin and Mt Ida took place. In 1888 the first Bonspiel was held with four clubs participating. It was noted that about 1896, women were also playing the game but it wasn't until 1975 that women were admitted to a club (Lowburn). The Naseby Council, comprising Mt Ida, Central Otago, and Naseby clubs, was formed in 1907.

The game suffered a downturn between 1914 and 1922 probably due to the ice conditions and the war, but it picked up again with young curlers showing keen interest, and Bonspiels also resumed. Australia came to New Zealand in 1934 and became the first international side to play here, giving the game an extra boost. The Idaburn Dam was constructed in Oturehua in 1934 and this is now where all the Bonspiels are held.

During the Second World War curling declined again, but resumed later with renewed interest. The Idaburn Council was formed and a new club (Kiwi) comprising Returned Servicemen was established. A visit in 1973 by Scottish curlers was reciprocated in 1975 by a team of New Zealanders touring Scotland and sampling their hospitality and indoor rinks. The game has continued to flourish with 26 clubs playing the sport and, with two world endurance records held by the ladies and men of the Lowburn Club, the scene seems set for many years of enjoyable curling.


ABOUT THE GAME

Curling is basically similar to a game of bowls on ice and is played predominantly in Central Otago. The game gets its name from the right or left spin imparted to the stone by the player just as he releases it. It is played on a rink approximately 35 metres long, by two teams of four, consisting of lead, second, third and skip, each delivering two stones throughout the match. The curling stones, each weighing approximately 12kg, are made from smoothed pieces of granite, shaped like the base of a cottage loaf and they have a handle which can be changed from the top to the bottom according to the ice-surface conditions. They are specially imported from Scotland.

The object of the game is to get as many of your team's stones closer to the tee than your opponents'. The curler slides the stones as close as possible to a jack. Team associates may sweep the ice clear of impediments immediately ahead of the stone as it slides across the ice. Each stone that is inside a previously marked out area called a "house" and closer to the tee than your opponents' counts as one point. This constitutes an end. Play is then resumed in the opposite direction b the lead of the winning team. The final score is determined after 21 ends have been played - the highest scoring team being the winner.

The members of all the clubs get together for a two day Bonspiel held on the Idaburn Dam at Oturehua (subject to ice conditions). A Curlers Court is held on the evening of the second day's play during which the young curlers are initiated into the brotherhood of curling. The good fellowship traditions and friendly competition ensure that the popularity of the game will continue for many more years. It is said that the warmth of a "nip" while wintry winds blow produces the comradeship in the game that so endears it to its devotees.

The curling season is reliant on good natural ice forming - usually June and July. Dates are not pre-planned because of uncertainty of ice conditions. Inter-club competitions are held Sunday evenings and all day Monday. During the 1992 season the largest Bonspiel was held June 30th.

Today, Curling can be played more regularly because of the establishment of Artificial Outdoor Rinks, firstly in Naseby in the Maniototo, the Curling Capital of New Zealand, then followed by a rink in Alexandra. Indoor rinks in Dunedin and Queenstown provide further venues for this ancient sport.


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