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Page last updated at 09:24 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 10:24 UK

Theft dismays Australia curlers

File photo of Scottish curler Eve Muirhead
Curling involves sliding the granite rock along the ice to a target

More than a third of Australia's total supply of stones for the winter sport of curling have been stolen from a refrigerated lorry in Melbourne.

Police say the thieves probably thought they were taking a lorry full of alcohol from a secure car park at an ice rink.

The loss of 58 expensive stones has disrupted training for both serious curlers and those new to the sport.

Officials are appealing to the thieves to return the stones.

"They are useless to anyone else except for us, apart from as a doorstop or propping up a coffee table," curler Paul Meissner told the Associated Press.

"They might be valuable... but that won't do you any good. They could sell them to the Canadians, but they've got their own rocks."

'Massive loss'

Australia has only about 150 granite rocks, which are each valued at about $400 (£242). The lost rocks will cost more than $23,000 (£14,000) to replace, officials say.

The rocks had been stored in the refrigerated trailer to keep them frozen as part of the Curling Federation's attempts to boost membership to the sport in Melbourne.

"We had a lot of fun introducing about 40 people to the sport every Tuesday night, who really enjoyed coming here, which is an important part of developing the sport," said Mr Meissner.

"It is a massive loss. We might have to explore options including a loan from the World Curling Federation."

Curling is an Olympic sport that involves four players on two teams who sweep ice in an attempt to slide the rock towards its target.

Australia is currently ranked 12th in the world for men's curling. Canada is ranked 1st, with Scotland 2nd.



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