STRANRAER curler Gail Munro is battling at the Court of Session in Edinburgh this week to save her reputation after a coach claimed she refused to play for Scotland at the 2008 World Womens Curling Championships in Vernon, Canada.
The fallout from the incident that rocked Scottish curling has lead Mrs Munro, 44, the manager of the curling rink at the North West Castle Hotel, to claim £50,000 in damages from former Scottish National coach Derek Brown. Also involved in the bitter dispute between the two is Olympic Gold Medallist Rhona Martin, who was in Vernon as coach to ‘Team Munro’.
Making her first appearance on the world stage after winning the Scottish Championships, Munro, with team mates Lyndsay Wilson, Karen Addison and Annie Laird, had endured a nightmare tournament only winning one game out of nine. With Olympic qualifying points at stake Brown decided on radical action and told Munro she was being dropped from the team. Munro’s dismay at being dropped turned to outrage when reports in Canadian and British newspapers quoted Brown saying that she had allegedly refused to play for her country.
His comments had been based, he told a judge on the opening day of the hearing, on reports he had received from Martin after she had a late night meeting with Munro to discuss the situation.
Giving evidence Brown said Munro was extremely upset after she was dropped and her third player and close friend Lyndsay Wilson had then offered to step down to let Munro continue playing. Wilson did not play again either, leaving Scotland to finish their last two round robin games, which they won, with only three players.
The day Munro was dropped, Brown told the court he heard a “heated discussion” between Munro and Martin in the corridor of the hotel. He said that Martin had reported to him the following day that Munro had told her there was “no way” she was going back on the ice.
At a press conference in Vernon, Brown, who now works for the USA Curling Association, said the skip had been dropped for performance reasons, another player had refused to play and the skip was then given the opportunity to return to the ice, but had refused. An irate Munro had then confronted him, insisting she had not refused to play. Later, Martin had informed him that she had not “officially” asked Munro to play and that he perhaps ought to have spoken to her himself.
Brown agreed with Roderick Dunlop, QC for Munro, that the RCCC, the sport’s governing body, had investigated the matter and cleared Munro of any wrongdoing. He also accepted it had been up to him to offer any opportunity to Munro to return to the ice but had not spoken to her.
On the second day Munro gave her version of events to the court, admitting she was “horrified” to find herself accused of refusing to play for her country.
She said: “I have been involved in international curling for quite a number of years both coaching and playing and I felt I had a very good standing in the international curling community.
“I just felt at that moment my reputation and standing has cascaded around me. I had no control over it because of the players’ agreement I had signed which said I could not speak out.”
Munro said she was not asked to return to the team and did not refuse to play.
She told the court she first became aware of the allegation through a publication produced at the event. She said: “To my absolute horror there I was on the front page eating a poke of chips with the allegation that I had refused to play for my country.”
She then met with Brown and asked him to go back to the press and issue a retraction but this was never done.
Munro was asked if, at any time during her meeting with coach Martin, she was asked to play in the upcoming game against Italy.
“Absolutely not”, she replied.
The case continues.