By Martin Cleary
Legendary women’s curler Rachel Homan of Ottawa is having some fun now with the hope she can have a lot more fun in her 2022-23 season.
Last week on Twitter, she posted a team photo of herself, Emma Miskew and Sarah Wilkes, but the fourth player couldn’t be identified. Fans and followers were asked to guess who would be filling the team vacancy left by the departure of eight-year player Joanne Courtney, who played lead.
The announcement was made on Friday that Tracy Fleury, who has been a distinguished skip in her own right for the past decade, would be the newest member of the highly-successful Homan rink.
But that led to another teasing moment. Here’s what Homan had to say on her blog posting about the arrival of Fleury.
“Rachel and Tracy will be playing back end, but how exactly will that look next season?” Homan wondered in her writing. “You’ll just have to wait to find out!
“We’ll be having team discussions on what lineup could work best for everyone and you’ll likely see us trying different positions, when we hit the ice next fall.”
One thing that’s certain is the front end is secure with Emma Miskew and Sarah Wilkes, who is moving back to Ontario from Alberta.
“Emma and I have played together for two decades and to have her be there right before I throw my rocks is going to be incredible,” Homan added.
Does that mean Miskew will play second and will “be there right before” Homan throws her rocks as the third? Miskew certainly won’t be returning to her familiar team role as the third and delivering her stones before Homan as the skip.
“Emma and Sarah are really good sweepers and I think they’ll be a great front-end together.”
That’s good news for Fleury, who was recently quoted by CBC’s Devin Heroux: “I wasn’t recruited for my sweeping.”
As a number of high-profile Canadian rinks posted breakup announcements earlier this month, Fleury also revealed her decision on Twitter. She said her rink of third Selena Njegovan, second Liz Fyfe and lead Kristin MacCuish were going their separate ways after four years together, including three trips to the Canadian women’s curling championship (Scotties Tournament of Hearts).
“To get the call to join Rachel, Emma and Sarah was an opportunity that I could not turn down,” Fleury said in Homan’s blog. “This team has been on top for years and I am so grateful to play with these ladies for the next quadrennial and represent Ontario.”
In a sense, Fleury has come full circle. The Sudbury-born Fleury appeared in her first of five Scotties Tournament of Hearts in 2012 representing Ontario. Back then, she competed as Tracy Horgan and finished with a 4-7 record. By 2015, Northern Ontario was given a berth in the national championship and Fleury became the first skip to compete for that new region. She has represented Manitoba since 2018.
In the past three seasons, Fleury, who is married to Brent Fleury and has a young daughter Nina, has won the Masters Grand Slam in 2019 and 2021, and finished second at the 2021 Olympic Winter Games trials.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am for Tracy to join our team,” Homan expressed in her blog. “We have battled on the ice for years and I have always respected her game.
“She’s an absolute competitor and to have Tracy join us brings even more experience to our team. I can’t wait to compete with Tracy and the team next season.”
The Homan rink is scheduled to end its 2021-22 season with the $175,000 Princess Auto Players’ Championship in Toronto and the $105,000 KIOTI Tractor Champions Cup in Olds, AB.
Courtney left the Homan team to focus on family and her nursing career.
“She is one of the most dedicated, positive and hard-working people I have ever met,” Homan wrote about Courtney. “I will forever be grateful for the memories we shared on and off the ice. It was an amazing ride and, although I’m sad she is leaving, I’m happy for her to make new goals and watch her thrive in her next ambitions.”
Courtney called her decision to take a break from curling bittersweet.
“When I got the call eight years ago, I could not have imagined how much joining Team Homan would change my life,” she said. “Playing at the highest level in the sport I love has been a dream come true. The pursuit of excellence requires relentless effort, and I am proud of my personal growth through my time on this team.
“I will continue to be inspired by the drive and dedication of my teammates as I step away from the game.”
During her eight years with the Homan rink, she experienced Canadian and world championship wins and eight out of 11 Homan victories at the Grand Slam level.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 50 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the High Achievers “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.
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