Australia’s team for the Japan Cup will be a blend of youth and experience, with the immediate aim of winning the tournament but also with longer-term goals in mind.
The 17-player Aussie Spirit team, announced today, includes two women who play professionally in Japan, plus others with professional or college experience in the USA.
The team will play three exhibition games against Japanese club teams on August 31 and September 1 before the tournament starts in Takasaki, 120km northwest of Tokyo, on September 2.
Australia’s opponents in the qualifying round will be the USA, Japan and Chinese Taipei, with the final to be played on September 4.
Head coach Fabian Barlow says the team has a good mix of experience and potential.
He believes Australia’s strength will be the battery, with pitchers Vanessa Stokes and Kaia Parnaby, plus catcher Belinda White, at the peak of their game.
Two of the key players for Australia will be Parnaby and Stacey Porter, who play for the Galaxy Stars in the Japan Women Softball League. “We’ll call on these two to pass on their experience of playing in Japan to the younger players,” Barlow said. “They are critical members of the team, not just for what they bring to the field but also in terms of scouting and helping us with tips about some of the Japanese players.”
Amelia Cudicio, at 20 the youngest pitcher in the team, will get a chance to show her potential. “She’s a developing pitcher who will get an opportunity to show she can step up and play at this level,” Barlow said.
Cudicio is among the young brigade expected to form the nucleus of the Spirit over the next four years, culminating in the 2020 Olympic Games if softball is reinstated.
“Apart from the Japan Cup, we have the next World Championship in Japan and hopefully softball will be in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” Barlow said. “So the experience we gain playing there will be really important over the next four years. It’s a good chance for our players to get the feel of the place and hopefully feel comfortable playing there.”
While softball in Australia is highly competitive, the intensity is taken to a new level in Japan. One thing the Aussies will have to adjust to quickly is the noise in the stadium.
“It’s a totally different atmosphere,” says Barlow. “Apart from being hot and dry, there’’ll be bands playing loud instruments and the crowds will be noisy. It’ll be a real cultural change for the players who haven’t been there before. They’ll see things they’ve never experienced previously.”
The Australian team for the Japan Cup:
|Janice Blackman, Qld||Stacey McManus, NSW||Vanessa Stokes, SA|
|Georgia Blair, Qld||Kaia Parnaby, NSW||Erin Thras, Qld|
|Alexandra Casey, NSW||Sam Poole, NSW||Taylah Tsitsikronis, NSW|
|Amelia Cuducio, NSW||Stacey Porter, NSW||Clare Warwick, ACT|
|Sandra Holden, Qld||Carmelle Sorensen, Qld||Belinda White, SA|
|Rachel Lack, NSW||Tara Speakman, Qld|
|Jordyn Christensen, NSW||Amber Johnson, WA||Ellen Roberts, NSW|
|Jemma Freegard, WA||Jocelyn McCallum, Qld||Chelsea Robinson, SA|