U23 Women – History and Winners

Joyce Lester Shield
U23 Women’s Championship

The Pacific International Fastpitch Tournament, as it was originally known, was introduced into the Australian softball calendar in 1997 by Queensland Softball Association to provide an elite level competition in the U23 age division.

The Association selected an U23 Women’s team to tour New Zealand in 1994 and after three tours made the decision to run a tournament in in Queensland.

Teams competing in the first tournament were Papua New Guinea, Mariana Islands, New South Wales and Queensland with New South Wales victorious. In the second year, Queensland entered an U18 team and the Chinese-Taipei sent their Olympic squad as part of their preparation for the South Pacific Classic. Hutt Valley join the competition in 1999 and Victoria in 2000.

The men’s competition commenced in 1999 with New South Wales hosting this for the first time. Five teams competed in the U23 Men’s competition, Queensland U23 and U18s New South Wales U23 and Country and ACT. Victoria joined the tournament in 2000.

In 2000, Queensland hosted the first combined tournament: New South Wales, Queensland (two teams) and Victoria competed with New South Wales taking out both competitions.

Joyce Lester Shield

On the Queen’s Birthday weekend in June 2001 Joyce was recognised for her service to softball as a player and a coach. The records she set as a player are remarkable and will long stand in the annals of our sport.

Joyce started playing softball at school and soon joined a club team playing in Brisbane Softball Association fixture. She had a long association with the ‘Devils’ club where she played until 1981/2. Her love of the game never wavered through the ensuing years as she played for two more of the Brisbane affiliated clubs, Rebels 1982/3 to 1993/4 and Bears 1994/5 and 1995/6. As a member of those club teams, Joyce played a big part in many Premiership wins. In addition to this, as a member of the Rebels team, she won three national club championships. She represented Brisbane at state championships every year from 1973 to 1995. Joyce did not believe in “rests”. She believed she should always make herself available to club, state and nation. In the National Fastpitch League, Joyce played for Brisbane team ‘Strikers’ 1991 to 1995 and ‘Diamonds’ in 1996.

Joyce’s state representation began in 1973 when she was Vice Captain of the Queensland under 16 team in Adelaide. She was named Captain in 1974. Queensland U19 selection came in 1976 at the inaugural under 19 national championship held in Brisbane. Joyce had already played in open competition the previous year (1975). From 1975 to 1996 she represented our state in open competition on twenty-one occasions and held the position of Vice Captain three times and Captain twelve. On eight of those twenty-one occasions the Queensland team won the national title and Joyce was captain on seven of these.

Though Joyce finished her career as a catcher she was, in earlier years, one of the country’s most talented outfielders. She was first selected in open competition at both state and national levels as an outfielder and had to bide her time waiting to take over from the incumbents before she cemented her place as one of the best catchers in the world.

First national selection came in 1977 and from then until her retirement in 1996 Joyce played for Australia at twenty-six tournaments. In 1985 she was first named captain of Australia and held that position for the remainder of her representative years.

Joyce’s Australian record stands at 235 caps and 170 international games and she set a world record by participating in five ISF World Championships between 1978 and 1994. At the 1986 World Series in Auckland, Joyce was named in the World All Star Team and at the Intercontinental Cup in Italy in 1989 was named in the Tournament All Star Team. Australia, under her leadership, won a bronze medal at the World Championship in Canada in 1994 and at the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996.

Despite the very heavy demands of training and playing Joyce found time to coach junior teams in her club through the week and at fixtures on Saturday mornings. As a primary school teacher she took on the coaching of school teams and introduced many players to the game who went on to play in local fixtures. Joyce was always available to any player who asked for her help and in any team situation was always ready to share the benefit of her knowledge and skills. By so doing she assisted in the development of a number of players. When the coach of her club team (Rebels), retired Joyce stepped in and took on the Player/Coach role for three years.

As would be expected of a player whose career spanned so many years Joyce received many acknowledgements of her contribution to the game. She was named Sportswoman of the Month –a State Government award – on many occasions; Most Valuable Player at the 1990 National Club Championships; Batter of the Series, New Zealand tour 1991. The Brisbane City Council has honoured her with two Advance Australia awards. Queensland Softball Association Inc. presented her with a State Softball Service Award in 1990 and she received an Australian Softball Service Award in 1992.

In 1992 and 1993 Joyce was awarded a scholarship to the National Softball Academy and from 1994 to 1996 she was named in both the Australian Institute of Sport and the Queensland Academy of Sport squads.

In 1996 Joyce moved to Cairns and was appointed Assistant Coach of the State Women’s Open Development Team in 1997 and Head Coach of the North Queensland/Queensland Academy of Sport in 1998 and 1999. The Queensland Softball Association Inc. appointed her as a selector and coach of the state women’s open team to play in Sydney in 2000. She was a representative on the Queensland Olympic Council Task Force 2000 and is currently a serving member of the ISF. Athletes Commission. Joyce now spends much of the year coaching professional softball in Japan.

Joyce became only the 2nd softball player to be inducted into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame in 2000 and was named in the Queensland Academy of Sport Top Ten Sports Stars of the Decade in 2002. She has also been inducted into the Halls of Fame of Queensland Softball Association in 2001, Australian Softball Federation in 2000 and the International Softball Federation in 2001.

In 2003 Joyce was paid the ultimate compliment for your contribution to softball in Australia, when her name was applied to Softball Australia’s newest national competition.

Award winners

2004 NSW in Ipswich, Qld
2005 NSW in Melbourne
2006 Victoria in Canberra
2007 Victoria in Darwin
2015 NSW in Qld