Open Women – History, Winners and Player of the Grand Final

Open Women – History, Winners and Player of the Grand Final

Gilley’s Shield
Australian Women’s Championship

In 1936 timber merchants ‘Brown & Broad’ recruited an American civilian to work in a ply-board factory in the northern reaches of Australia.

A semi-pro baseball player, who could boast sharing a diamond with names such as Ty Cobb and Dom DiMaggio, Mack Gilley fell into Australian softball history and was to become one of the most influential figures this sport has ever seen.

Mack Gilley began his Australian softball career in 1943 when he offered his services to the US troops who were promoting the sport as a recreational activity while stationed in Australia during World War two.

A known advocate of women’s baseball and softball (he toured the US in 1906 with Boston Bloomer Girls, reported as the first women’s baseball team in the world), a chance meeting in a Brisbane cafe, led to Gilley being invited to a training session of a group of female baseball players endeavoring to revive sport in Australia.

Volunteering as an umpire, Gilley noticed the younger members of the team were struggling with the technicalities and demands of baseball. Offering softball knowledge, softball in Qld began with Gilley elected inaugural President of the Qld Women’s Softball Association, in a meeting held at the Qld Women’s Housewives’ Rooms in Edward Street, Brisbane in 1946.

Gilley’s influence in the development of softball went beyond his administration duties to the QWSA. He coached and managed the Qld Women’s Softball Team and was instrumental in training umpires for a school-based softball program.

In 1947 he played a major role in organizing the first official interstate carnival, which would later become an annual tournament nation-wide and crafted and donated the shield which in 1949 became the official trophy presented to each annual winner.

In the same year Gilley was given the honor alongside Irene Burrows (Vic) and Patricia Young (NSW) to draft a constitution in preparation for formally establishing a national softball body.

As the years progressed it was becoming clear that softball in Australia was a female dominated sport. In 1950, the newly formed Australian Women’s Softball Council passed a motion to alter the Constitution so ‘That all official representatives of this Council shall be women.’

The constitutional change excluded Gilley from presiding over AWSC meetings and coaching at a national level.

Despite the decree, Gilley continued to influence the development of Australian softball. He retained his dual Presidency of the Qld Softball and Baseball Associations until 1953, and remained State Coach of the Qld Women’s Softball Team until it hosted its second interstate carnival that same year.

While his administrative, coaching and umpiring activities are widely known in Softball circles, less was known about the time Gilley gave to the physically disadvantaged. Ruby Robinson (Sports writer and Broadcaster) recalled going with a group of friends to the Rosemount Paraplegic Hospital and wheeling the patients down to watch softball games. With Gilley’s help they too learned to play the sport.

Further constitutional changes denied Gilley one of the organisation’s highest awards – Life Membership despite being nominated by Qld in 1969. The newly renamed Australian Softball Federation was faced with the dilemma of recognising his contribution to their sport and opted for a miniature gold replica of the Shield he donated, which he could wear as a lapel pin.

Mack Gilley passed away several years later, yet his legacy remains for all that claim to own it – The Gilley’s Shield.

Past winners

1947 Vic in Brisbane 1985 Vic in Hobart
1949 Vic in Melbourne 1986 NSW in Canberra
1950 Vic in Sydney 1987 Qld in Darwin
1951 Vic in Adelaide 1988 NSW in Brisbane
1952 WA in Perth 1989 NSW in Melbourne
1953 WA in Brisbane 1990 NSW in Sydney
1954 Vic in Melbourne 1991 NSW in Adelaide
1955 WA in Sydney 1992 Qld in Perth
1956 SA in Adelaide 1993 NSW in Hobart
1957 Vic in Perth 1994 Qld in Canberra
1958 Vic in Hobart 1995 Qld in Darwin
1959 WA in Brisbane 1996 Qld in Brisbane
1960 Vic in Melbourne 1997 NSW in Melbourne
1961 Vic in Sydney 1998 Qld in Sydney
1962 Vic in Adelaide 1999 NSW in Adelaide
1963 Qld in Perth 2000 NSW in Sydney
1964 Vic in Hobart 2001 NSW in Perth
1965 Vic in Canberra 2002 Qld in Canberra
1966 Qld in Brisbane 2003 Qld in Hobart
1967 Vic in Melbourne 2004 NSW in Brisbane
1968 Qld in Sydney 2005 NSW in Adelaide
1969 NSW in Adelaide 2006 Qld in Melbourne
1970 Vic in Perth 2007 Qld in Sydney
1971 Vic in Hobart 2008 NSW in Sydney
1972 Vic in Canberra 2009 Qld in Sydney
1973 NSW in Brisbane 2010 WA in Canberra
1974 Vic in Melbourne 2011 WA in Brisbane
1975 Qld in Sydney 2012 NSW in Sydney
1976 Vic in Adelaide 2013 WA in Melbourne
1977 Vic in Perth 2014 NSW in Sydney
1978 ACT in Hobart 2015 NSW in Perth
1979 ACT in Canberra 2016 Qld in Sydney
1980 ACT in Brisbane 2017 NSW in Sydney
1981 Vic & NSW in Melbourne 2018 NSW in Perth
1982 Vic in Sydney 2019 NSW in Perth
1983 Qld in Adelaide 2020 NSW in Perth
1984 Qld in Perth


Player of the Grand Final

2012 Bree Brooker (NSW)
2013 Leigh Godfrey (WA)
2014 Stacey Porter (NSW)
2015 Ellen Roberts (NSW)
2016 Jade Wall (Qld)
2017 Kaia Parnaby (NSW)
2018 Stacey McManus (NSW)
2019 Rachel Lack (NSW)
2020 Rachel Lack (NSW)