Gilley’s to feature international stars

Gilley’s to feature international stars

The teams have been finalised for the 2020 Open Women’s National Championship where New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia will compete for the Gilley’s Shield at Mirrabooka Stadium in Perth from 4-10 January.

As well as featuring Australia’s best women softballers, a sprinkling of international star power across the states will add some flair to kick off the year.

The Victoria Titans have added serious firepower to their roster securing the services of Olympic bound Italian pitcher Greta Cecchetti, American Kelly Barnhill who was the number one pick in the 2019 National Pro Fastpitch draft, and Travelodge Aussie Spirit veteran Clare Warwick.

“We’re extremely excited to have these three very quality players and individuals involved,” said Titans Head Coach Mark Rigg.

“We’re really lucky to secure the services of Kelly who’s a high profile and world class athlete, we have a great relationship with her former NCAA College team the Florida Gators and their Head Coach Tim Walton, which is part of the process we follow to get these players over here.”

“And Greta is a quality player, she played a major part in helping Italy qualify into the Olympics. She’s the number one pitcher in Europe and we’re very happy to have her on board.”

The addition of Warwick to the team is certainly not underestimated by Rigg and his staff who look forward to welcoming her talent and experience to the group.

“It’s not often the best players in the country are available, so to add Clare to our roster is extremely exciting,” added Rigg.

“Clare has played over 200 games for Australia, has been in the national team for nearly 10 years – a natural leader and a really quality person.”

The WA Flames have assembled another strong team under new Head Coach Kere ‘KJ’ Johanson, the Spirit trio of Leah Parry, Verity Long-Droppert and Leigh Godfrey will lead the hometown heroes over the course of the tournament.

Joining the host state in 2020 will be star U.S. pitcher Jordan Taylor who is no stranger to Australian shores having played for the Flames in January this year and is fresh off another season in the tough Japan professional league.

Adding further heat to the Flames pitching ranks is former Texas A&M star Sarah Pauly who has a swag of accolades in the game including holding virtually every pitching record at her former college, and after joining the National Pro Fastpitch League in 2006, went on to smash the innings pitched, games played and games started records.

While officially retiring in 2017, Pauly will return to the diamond Down Under to add a wealth of experience to the West. The American duo will also be joined by Japanese star softballer Yui Sakamoto.

Defending champions New South Wales will field a homegrown team but no shortage of stars with eight members of the Travelodge Aussie Spirit Olympic Qualifier squad lining up including Stacey Porter, Kaia Parnaby, Taylah Tsitsikronis, Rachel Lack, Stacey McManus, Tarni Stepto, Ellen Roberts and Michelle Cox.

Lack blitzed the 2019 Gilley’s Shield on her way to tournament MVP and was also recently named Softball NSW’s Female Player of the Year, putting them in good stead for a fourth consecutive title.

South Australia Starz, runners up last year, will have their fair share of Australian representatives headlined by Travelodge Aussie Spirit vice captain Belinda White along with Maddie Cameron, Jordan Lambert, Steph Trzcinski and the sister pairing of Junior Spirit players Amber and Georgia Hood.

They’ll also feature a sprinkling of international talent including globetrotting pitcher Jessica Dreswick and USSSA Pride player Jailyn Ford who stood out for the Starz in 2019, pitching them all the way into the final.

Queensland Heat round out the teams, they too boasting a number of homegrown stars with Carmelle Sorensen, Jade Wall, Chelsea Forkin, Jess Torpey, Tamieka Whitefield, Janice Blackman and Olympian Justine Smethurst.

In 2020, the Gilley’s Shield represents the first chance of the year for players to put their hand up for Australian selection and a possible spot in the final 15 selected for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Head Coach of the Travelodge Aussie Spirit Laing Harrow says selection is wide open for those who weren’t in the final team of 15 who qualified for the Olympics in September.

“It’ll come back to Gilley’s again, it’s important for the girls we took over (to the qualifier) to rest up but then get back into their state programs and prepare for Gilley’s while still knowing what’s at stake,” said Harrow.

“Following Gilley’s there’s another chance for players to put their hands up in the AP Cup and Summer Slam tournaments.

“The girls that missed out on the qualifiers, they understand it’s open doors again and they’ll be doing everything they can to put their hand up to be involved in the final 15 we take to Tokyo.”

Full team lists available at softball.org.au.

The Summer of Softball begins early this year with the U18 Men’s National Championship played at Blacktown International Sportspark from 8 – 14 December 2019, followed by the Open Women’s National Championship and U14 Girl’s Regional Championship from 4-10 January.

Over in the east the U16 Boy’s and Girl’s National Championships takes place at Waverly, Victoria from 4-10 January, the Open Men’s National Championship and U14 Boy’s Regional Championship are held in the nation’s capital at Hawker from 12 – 18 January before the U18 Women’s National Championship wraps up Australian titles back at Blacktown International Sportspark from 19 – 25 January.

International softball then takes centre stage at Blacktown with the AP Cup from 30 January – 2 February, ahead of the exciting Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball from 3 – 5 February.

To purchase tickets for the AP Cup, click here.

To purchase tickets for the Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball, click here.

*Teams are eligible to make changes until prior to 4 January.