Leigh Godfrey’s performances in an Aussie Spirit uniform mark her as a top-class player. But she brings more to the team than just what she can do with a bat and an outfielder’s glove.
After missing last year’s World Championship campaign because of a shoulder injury that required surgery, Godfrey has returned with a vengeance and hopes to maintain her good form at the Japan Cup, which starts on Friday.
At the recent Softball World Cup in Oklahoma City, Godfrey hit for a .300 average and a .462 on-base percentage (OBP). A week later at the Canada Cup, she performed even better, hitting .367 with a .467 OBP.
But it’s not just her hitting and outfield play that impresses Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow. He also likes her attitude.
“Leigh brings a really strong desire to compete and win against the best teams in the world,” Barlow says.
“And she demands that of her teammates as well. She has a very high level of game sense and knows exactly what’s required at the appropriate time and will back herself in every situation presented to her.
“As part of our leadership group she sets the standards in lots of areas. No one is off limits when it comes to making sure everyone is accountable and understands what needs to happen to be successful.”
That attitude has seen Godfrey achieve success not only with the Aussie Spirit, but also on the baseball diamond. She owns a unique slice of sporting history, becoming the first player to win World Championship medals in both sports.
Godfrey was a representative of the Aussie Spirit team that captured the bronze medal in the 2014 Women’s Softball World Championship in Haarlem, Netherlands. A few weeks later, she again won bronze at the Women’s Baseball World Cup in Miyazaki, Japan.
“It was a long few weeks, that’s for sure,” Godfrey recalls. “The body was pretty tired by the end of it.
“Softball was always my number one priority, but some people behind the scenes helped organise things so I could fly straight from one tournament to the next, so it all worked out quite well.
“I did a lot of training beforehand, a lot of running, to make sure my legs lasted through the two tournaments.”
But baseball is now in Godfrey’s rear-view mirror as she devotes herself to softball. “It’s definitely hard, trying to play both softball and baseball, but my game style is suited to both sports so that made it a bit easier.
“The hardest part wasn’t the transition from one to the other, it was just fitting both sports in. Between work, softball and baseball, it was hard to fit it all in, especially all the training.”
Like all elite athletes from Western Australia, Godfrey has chalked up a lot of frequent flyer points over the years. “You just get used to it if you’re from Perth. Every fight is at least four hours. You also get used to playing or training straight off the plane.”
Godfrey, 28, takes her responsibilities with the Aussie Spirit’s leadership group seriously. “I’m a vice-captain along with Clare Warwick, with Stacey Porter as captain. We’ve been around each other for a long time. It’s not always easy being in the leadership group, but it’s made easier by the company I’m surrounded by.
“When you’re on a tour, the leadership group has an experience role, whether it be on the field or off. We try to guide the less-experienced players and set the level performance wise. There are good things and bad things that have to be taken care of, but it’s predominantly all good.”
One of Godfrey’s roles will be passing on her experience of playing in Japan to players who have not been there before.
“It’s a different world over there when it comes to softball,” she says. “There are larger crowds, and there’s also the humidity and the different diamonds they play on.
“The crowds in Japan are so different to what we’re used to in Australia. Not only are they usually bigger, but they come with their drums and other bits and pieces. They’re in your face, they’re loud all the time. It’s a lot different to Australia, and even to crowds in the USA and Canada.
“I quite enjoy it. I like playing in that environment. But I don’t know about other players.”
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)||Tarni Stepto (NSW)|
|Chelsea Forkin (Qld)||Samantha Poole (NSW)||Jessica Torpey (Qld)|
|Jemma Freegard (WA)||Stacey Porter (NSW)||Taylah Tsitsikronis (NSW)|
|Leigh Godfrey (WA)||Ellen Roberts (NSW)||Clare Warwick (ACT)|
|Rachel Lack (NSW)||Justine Smethurst (Qld)||Belinda White (SA)|
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