Future looks bright as Aussie Spirit focus on Olympic qualifying

The Aussie Spirit players celebrate after the extra-inning win over Mexico.

Future looks bright as Aussie Spirit focus on Olympic qualifying

Having finished fourth at the XVI Women’s Softball World Championship in Chiba, Japan, the Aussie Spirit are now looking with optimism to the future.

The immediate focus now turns to qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, which will involve winning an Asia/Oceania qualifying tournament at a venue yet to be decided by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).

aussie spirit

Belinda White, Stacey Porter and Justine Smethurst rejoice after the win over Canada.

Softball Australia will be applying to host the qualifying tournament in 2019.

The USA won the 2018 World Championship by beating Japan 7-6 in the final, with Canada earning the bronze medal after beating Australia. The top four placings in the World Championship were exactly in line with the pre-tournament world rankings.

While the Spirit are the highest-placed team in the Asia/Oceania region, Head Coach Fabian Barlow knows there is plenty of work to be done to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

“The players have laid a foundation here in Chiba for the program to build off as they seek to qualify for Tokyo in 2020,” he says.

“The playing group at the Worlds have done a good job, but like the coaching staff are not satisfied with fourth spot.

“It is obviously a significant improvement on the 2016 Worlds result, but we came here wanting to be on the diamond on the last day of the tournament and we didn’t quite get there.

aussie spirit

Stacey McManus slides in with the winning run against Mexico.

“They showed when they get it right they are a tough team to beat in what is a very deep field of elite-level teams. You only have to see the quality of teams who missed the top four in both sections this week to understand that.”

Barlow says the lessons learned over the past few months will benefit the Aussie Spirit in future. “It’s been a long campaign for the girls with the NPF, Ota City and now the World Championships just completed,” he says.

“For some, the games started way back in mid-May. There are learnings for the program to take from all three of those events around different aspects of our skill execution, game sense and just general performance.”

Barlow believes that competition for places on the team will drive the players to better performances. “A key outcome the program is always chasing is player depth and competition for team selection and starting positions,” he says.

softball world championship

The USA celebrate after scoring the winning run off Japanese pitcher Yukiko Ueno.

“The NPF has contributed to that, with several players not here in Chiba getting exposed to international-level competition, and the next opportunity to do that will be the Japan Cup in early November.

“It’s critical there is internal competition and the challenge is now for the players not here to put their hand up either at the Japan Cup, if selected, or the Gilley’s Shield in January with performances showing they deserve to be on the team and in the line-up.