SAINT JOHN, N.B. — It’s become known as “The Weagle”, but Rachel Homan’s curling team refers to it internally as the “tick bomb” because it can have the opposition scrambling early in an end.
The tick shot isn’t particularly new, but no women’s curling team incorporates it into their strategy as much and as effectively as Homan’s Ottawa Curling Club foursome.
The tick is considered lead Lisa Weagle’s signature shot because she throws it often and well.
If a team has a comfortable lead in a game, the tick is called for in later ends to defend it. But Homan also uses it early to thwart the opposing team’s offence.
“It hasn’t been done before,” Homan says. “I’d say it’s a pretty new strategy.”
Curling’s vocabulary is famous for introducing new jargon, so it seems only a matter of time before “The Weagle” morphs from noun to verb as in “she’s going to Weagle here.”‘
An explanation of the shot requires a short explanation of a rule. Stones in front of the house and not touching the rings can’t be removed until the fifth stone of the end is thrown.
The “free guard zone” or “four-rock rule” was installed over a decade ago to make curlers draw around those guards to the rings and make the game more exciting.
As lead, Weagle throws Canada’s first two stones of an end. When she plays a tick, she shifts an opposing team’s guard on the centre line over to the side, where it is less of a threat, without removing it from play.
That shot requires a deft touch and perfect weight. Throw it too hard and she’ll completely remove the guard. What happens then under the rule is her delivered stone is removed from play, the guard put back in its original position and Canada has effectively wasted a shot.
“It’s a tough shot, but our team practises it all the time,” Weagle says. “It really allows us to showcase our good team communication.
“What I love about the shot is it’s a full-team shot. The broom has to be in the right place. I have to throw it close and the sweepers have to give their input.”
When Weagle threw a tick in the eighth end of a game against China on Thursday, her shooter rolled and bit the edge of the rings to give Canada a counter.
“In our vernacular, on the scoresheet it’s a tick-bomb bonus,” coach Earle Morris says. “We call it tick bombs when she makes them and when she ends up in the house, it’s a tick-bomb bonus.”
With China forced to replace their guard instead of drawing around it, the momentum swung hard to the Canadians as they scored three points that end en route to victory.
Another reason the tick is risky is Weagle can miss it by raising an opposition stone into the rings and ending up guarding it with the one she just threw.
“I always hate when I miss one,” Weagle says. “There’s been times where I’ve raised them perfectly top four and guarded them.”
But Weagle’s ticks work in concert with her teammates’ abilities to throw runback takeouts if she misses. Those two skills are what makes Homan’s team so effective scoring more than one point and not giving up steals when the skip has the hammer.
“We play the tick really well and when we don’t play it well and we get in trouble, we’re also the best team on the women’s circuit of playing the straight backs and straight-back doubles,” Morris says. “We can get out of trouble if we get in trouble.”
Olympic champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg is certainly capable of using the tick, but she’ll often have lead Dawn McEwen drawing around guards and freezing to opposition stones because McEwen is so good at it.
“I think she’s the best in the world at that shot,” Weagle says.
Weagle, who turns 29 on Monday, is a communications adviser for the federal government. She’s engaged to Robin Guy with a wedding date set for July, so is a name change in store for The Weagle?
“I haven’t decided whether I’ll change my name or not,” she says. “Maybe we’ll have to call it The Guy or it will have to stay as The Weagle.”