Australia’s Steelers will be competing against some of the best players in the world when they travel to New Zealand for the Challenge Cup next month.
The 16-man Steelers squad, announced today, is missing some familiar names who were unavailable to make the trip. But Head Coach Laing Harrow says their absence will create opportunities for other players.
The five-day Challenge Cup, to be held in Auckland from 8-12 February, will also feature teams from Japan, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Samoa and New Zealand.
The event will give selectors an extra opportunity to evaluate players ahead of the 2017 Men’s World Championship in Whitehorse, Canada.
Harrow believes the Challenge Cup is a high-standard event that will provide the Steelers with much-needed international competition.
“It’s not club ball any more,” he said. “We’ll be facing top-level competition against some of the best players in the world.”
“The standard is on a par with what we’ll see at the World Championship. New Zealand and Japan will be very strong. Argentina could send two teams and both would be top quality. And the Czech Republic have developed into a strong team in recent years.”
Rather than lamenting the unavailability of some of his top players, Harrow says the absences “open the door for others to prove themselves at international level”.
“It’s an opportunity for guys to show that they can compete at this level,” he said. “They have a chance to put their hands up and show that they can make things happen.”
The squad includes veteran Aaron Cockman, who was a member of the 2009 world champion Steelers. “Aaron adds some experience and is a valuable member of the team, not just for what he can do on the field but also as a mentor for young players,” Harrow said.
At the other end of the experience scale is first baseman Jett Wright. “He’s only 16 but is an outstanding talent at junior level. He’s a great hitter and now he has a chance to show what he can do against top-quality men’s competition.”
After the Challenge Cup, which will be held at Auckland’s Rosedale Park, the Steelers team will be chosen to represent Australia at the 2017 Men’s Softball World Championship.
It will be the first time the Canadian territory of Yukon has hosted a senior men’s event, although it has been the venue for three previous World Championships – the Junior Men’s in 2008 and 2014, as well as the 2012 Women’s.
The 10-day event is scheduled to begin on 7 July 2017. Participating teams are still to be determined, but the previous World Championship, held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, included 15 teams.
The gold medal in 2015 was won by Canada, who defeated New Zealand 10-5 in the final. Venezuela claimed the bronze medal.
Australia’s team for the 2017 Challenge Cup
|James Brownlow (NSW)||Julian Jemmott (Qld)||Tyrell Priestly (Qld)|
|Aaron Cockman (WA)||Hayden Mathews (NSW)||Jay Selu (ACT)|
|Tyson Duncan (WA)||Ryan Merriman (Qld)||Lewis Weldon (Vic)|
|Jarryd Farrell (SA)||Brendon O’Byrne (WA)||Jett Wright (WA)|
|Shaun Goffer (Qld)||Liam O’Leary (NSW)|
|Mark Harris (WA)||Harrison Peters (NSW)|
|Laing Harrow||Head Coach|
|Geoffrey Coultas||Assistant Coach|
|Michael Titheradge||Team Manager|
|Tony Mackie||Video Analysis|