Curling in the South Island

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian
www.sunlive.co.nz

Sideline Sid and Mrs Sid are away in the South Island for some much needed R&R after the stresses of the last six months.

The durable duo have spent a few days enjoying the sights and attractions of Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes region.

It's entirely different country from the North Island, with the very stunning scenery on show.

One attraction that the pair stopped off and had a bo-peep at was a sporting venue that has popped up on Sky Sport on a couple of occasions.

The only indoor curling rink in the country is situated in the small South Island hamlet of Naseby, between Ranfurly and Alexandra.

When asked how many people live in the town, a local replied "there must be at least one hundred people living in Naseby".

Naseby dates back to some of the early sporting history of the country, but also had a date with international sporting glory early in 2019.

Curling was introduced to the Central Otago region by the Scottish gold miners, with the first reported game taking place in the Maniapoto Basin in 1878.

Curling for the uninitiated, is like bowls on ice, where stone slides with a handle attached are sent gliding over the ice towards a target at the other end of the rink.

The early Scottish immigrants would gravitate to the Central Otago hamlets such as Naseby in winter and utilise the frozen ponds to engage in curling contests.

There are many claims to the oldest sporting trophies in New Zealand still contested today - with curling laying claim to the title with the Baxter Trophy, which was first contested in the 1880's as the Dunedin Curling Club points trophy.

Following the Dunedin CC dissolution in 1895, the Baxter Trophy was presented to the Mount Ida Curling Club, who were one of the founding members of the Naseby Curling Council.

Today the time-honoured curling trophy is competed for on natural ice at a one-day Council Bonspiel.

While there is plenty of curling history in Naseby, the good folk of the town had a vision of some of the best curlers in the world coming to Central Otago for international competition, when the Olympic standard rink was opened in 2006.

That vision came to fruition in 2019, when Naseby hosted the World Championships repechage tournament, where the last spots were up for grabs for the final places at the 2019 World Curling Championship held in Canada.

Thirteen curling nations including the New Zealand hosts came together at the Naseby, as eight teams of men's and women's competitors played off, for the two World Championship spots up for grabs in each division.

The Kiwi men missed out by millimetres on count back, behind winners Korea along with England and The Netherlands of making the three team playoffs, with Poland, Australia, Denmark and Brazil trailing in the Kiwi's dust.

Finland, China and Hungary filled the top three spots in the women's competition, with Brazil, Estonia, Honk Kong, Poland and New Zealand, rounding out the other finishing positions.

What the 2019 World Curling Qualification event showed, is that very big dreams can come true, as the good people of Naseby showed in taking hold of a vision and making it happen.



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