By Ed O’Leary – QMI Agency

Local curling fans will be among the first in Canada to see the Brad Gushue-Randy Ferbey combination working together.

Gushue, a former Olympic champion, and Ferbey, a former world champion, have joined forces for the 2010-11 season. They’re entered in Brantford’s Sun Life Financial Invitational Curling Classic, Nov. 19-22.

The event, which carries a total purse of $100,000, will be played at the Brantford Golf and Country Club, the Brant Curling Club and the Paris Curling Club.

“We’re happy to have Sun Life on for the fourth year in a row as a major sponsor,” event chairman Jay Allen said.

“The committee has done a lot of hard work over the past year to make sure the event is another great success.”

The 50-year-old Ferbey, who resides in Edmonton, has led the Ferbey Four for the past decade or so.

He skipped the rink but tossed third stones, while Dave Nedohin threw skip rocks. Scott Pfeifer played second and Marcel Rocque lead.

Ferbey will have a similar role with the St. John’s, N.L.-based Gushue rink as he’ll call the strategy but throw third rocks, while Gushue will throw skip stones.

Mark Nichols and Ryan Fry will remain with the Gushue rink but Nichols will move from third to second and Fry will go from second to lead.

Jamie Korab, last year’s lead, has moved on to coach Heather Strong’s rink from St. John’s.

The Sun Life will be the third competition of the season for the Gushue-Ferbey combination and it will have its hands full.

Mike McEwen of Winnipeg is returning to defend his championship but, as usual, the pre-tournament favourite will be Glenn Howard and his rink which includes third Richard Hart, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill.

Some of the other top men’s rinks are former Brier champion Jean-Michel Menard of Quebec, former world champion Wayne Middaugh, Bradford’s Dale Matchett, who recently won the Brampton Curling Classic, and Nick Rizzo’s rink from the BGCC.

Rizzo’s foursome includes third Chad Allen, second Jay Allen and lead Chad Simpson.

The women’s draw, headed by the Jo-Ann Rizzo-Sherry Middaugh team, is even more stacked than the men’s side.

Rizzo won the women’s championship last year throwing skip rocks with third Christina Cadorin, second Lee Merklinger and lead Leigh Armstrong.

Cadorin left the team this season and Middaugh, a multi-time provincial champion, joined it.

Middaugh is throwing skip rocks and Rizzo is playing third.

Other rinks headlining the women’s draw are former Canadian champions Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg and Kelly Scott of British Columbia.

They’ll be pushed by Amber Holland of Saskatchewan, Suzanne Birt (formerly Gaudet) of Prince Edward Island, Shelly Nichols of St. John’s, and Strong.

“It’s quickly becoming a must-play event on tour,” Allen said. “It’s talked about at the Brier and the Scott Tournament of Hearts.

“We have a strength of field multiplier of five (on the women’s side), which is the highest you can get for a bonspiel.”

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