For most of the Aussie Spirit players, the 2017 Japan Cup won’t be as big a shock to the system as it has been in previous years.
In the past, the Australians have been at a huge disadvantage because they were playing out of season. Spending a winter in Australia before landing in Japan and having to play in the heat against the best teams in the world was hardly ideal.
But for many players, things will be different this time. Seven of them will be fresh from a season playing professionally in the USA with the Chicago Bandits under an arrangement between Softball Australia and the National Fastpitch Pro league.
And several others have just returned from the World Cup in Oklahoma City and the Canada Cup tournament in suburban Vancouver.
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.
Aussie Spirit Head Coach Fabian Barlow expects the Bandits players to be in peak form when the team arrives in Takasaki, 120 km northwest of Tokyo, on 19 August. They will play seven practice games against local professional teams before the Japan Cup, which runs from 25-27 August.
“It’s an opportunity for the Chicago Bandits players to show the benefits of the arrangement Softball Australia made,” Barlow says. “They have been playing and training in a professional environment with and against some of the best players in the world.
“That’s great experience, even for those players who haven’t had as much game time as they would like. Only good things can come from it.
“I’m sure those seven players will have improved by being in that environment. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.”
Barlow says everyone in the 17-player squad will have opportunities to play in the lead-up games. But once the Japan Cup starts, he aims to put the best team on the field for every game. “It’s a benchmark event that could affect our future funding. We need to get a result, so we’ll be giving it our best shot.
“In the exhibition games, every athlete will have a chance to showcase their skills and show why they should be part of the team. But after that we’ll be playing against the best teams in the world, so it’s all about getting a result.”
Gaining experience playing in Japan is also important with the future in mind. The 2018 World Championship, where teams have a chance to qualify for the 2020 Olympics, will be held there, so the experience of playing under Japanese conditions could prove vital.
In the 2016 Japan Cup, which also included Chinese Taipei, the Spirit finished with a 2-2 win-loss record. Japan won the final with a 9-1 win over the USA.
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