Jess Torpey is living proof of those old sporting adages about the benefits of training hard and never giving up.
After being on the fringes of national selection for a while, Torpey, 28, has had a breakthrough year and now finds herself a key member of the Aussie Spirit team that will take on the best national teams in the world in the Japan Cup this month.
Strong performances at the recent World Cup in Oklahoma City and the Canada Cup in Surrey, British Columbia, paved the way for Torpey’s inclusion in the Japan Cup team.
Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow says Torpey, who performed well at first base or in the outfield, earned her opportunity to play in the Japan Cup.
“Jess took her opportunity on the North American tour with some very consistent hitting and demanded the selectors pick her for the Japan Cup through those performances,” Barlow says.
In Oklahoma City, Torpey hit .300, with an on-base percentage of .417. In Surrey she hit .318 with a .348 OBP.
“She is new into the program but straight away brings that energy and passion for the jersey we expect all our players to have, no matter how long they have been in the program,” Barlow says.
“She has been around the domestic scene for quite a while and gets another opportunity to prove herself against the best teams in the world.”
Torpey says there is no mystery to how she has improved from fringe player to Aussie Spirit regular. “I made the squad in 2008-09 after my first Gilley’s Shield but didn’t get to play,” she says.
“Softball is one of those games where you learn more as you mature.
“As you learn more you realise you have to be mentally tougher. It’s a game where you fail more times than you succeed, and you have to learn lessons as you go.
“I’m enjoying it more now. Going to the gym, having all those early starts … I enjoy doing all that now and it makes me a better player.
“Hard work definitely pays off.”
Torpey plans to be as well prepared as possible before the team leaves for Japan. All the Queensland players go to the gym together twice a week and train together. But Torpey’s preparation doesn’t stop there.
“Having a partner who is a softball coach helps,” she says. “But even if I’m on my own I can always hit off a tee into a net in the backyard. There’s always something to do to improve.”
Torpey doesn’t hesitate when asked about her goals. “In the short term, I want to be a consistent player for Australia.
“Looking longer term, we have the World Championship next year, which would be awesome to play in, plus potentially the 2020 Olympics.”
Torpey has been to Japan twice before as a tourist, but this will be her first time as a player. “I’ve watched some pro games over there, and I know what to expect. It will be noisy, there’ll probably be a band playing, it will be different to what I’m used to, but that doesn’t worry me.”
Torpey has come a long way since she began playing softball at the Bears club in Brisbane in the Under 12s. She has played for the same club for 16 years and now counts Chelsea Forkin and Carmelle Sorensen as teammates, both at club level and on the Aussie Spirit team for the Japan Cup.
Along the way she has been a member of the Queensland team that won the Gilley’s Shield in 2008, 2009 and 2016, and was named to the All Tournament Team last year.
Torpey is the niece of softball legend Joyce Lester, a 1996 Olympian who was a long-time captain of the Australian women’s team and is in the Australian and International Halls of Fame.
The Japan Cup is a three-day event that pits the Aussie Spirit against the three top-ranked teams in the world: Japan, USA and Canada.
The Aussie Spirit will play seven practice games against local professional teams before the Japan Cup, which runs from 25-27 August.
The Aussie Spirit team for the 2017 Japan Cup
|Amelia Cudicio (NSW)||Stacey McManus (NSW)||Carmelle Sorensen (Qld)|
|Jackie Di Siervi (Vic)||Kaia Parnaby (NSW)||Jessica Torpey (Qld)|
|Chelsea Forkin (Qld)||Samantha Poole (NSW)||Taylah Tsitsikronis (NSW)|
|Jemma Freegard (WA)||Stacey Porter (NSW)||Clare Warwick (ACT)|
|Leigh Godfrey (WA)||Ellen Roberts (NSW)||Belinda White (SA)|
|Rachel Lack (NSW)||Justine Smethurst (Qld)|
Fabian Barlow – Head Coach
Kym Tollenaere – Assistant Coach
Troy Baverstock – Assistant Coach
Kelly Hardie – Battery Coach
Lisa Anderson – Team Manager
Chris Bailey – Statistician
Georgia Giblin – Video Analyst
Nathanial Harnett – Physiotherapist