Twenty Travelodge Aussie Spirit stars are one step closer to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after a squad was named today to compete in the 2020 National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) League.
The Travelodge Aussie Spirit squad were selected following the Australia Pacific Cup and Summer Slam – Fully Loaded Softball tournaments both held at Blacktown International Sportspark from 30 January – 5 February.
They will now travel to the United States in late May and compete in the NPF under the banner of the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota where they will face-off against elite level competition as part of their preparation for the sport’s return to the Olympics in July.
“Our inaugural season with the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota in 2019 was crucial for our High Performance program which enabled us to go through the WBSC Asia/Oceania Olympic qualification event undefeated. We are delighted to continue this relationship in 2020 to use it as a springboard for our Olympic campaign,” said David Pryles, Chief Executive Officer of Softball Australia.
“Mankato was a home away from home for our Travelodge Aussie Spirit squad and we look forward to another season against some of the best softballers in the world.”
Travelodge Aussie Spirit Head Coach Laing Harrow says choosing just 20 athletes was difficult with a number of players narrowly missing out.
“There was always going to be tough decisions to be made in a couple of positions, especially in an Olympic year,” said Harrow.
“We had a lot of strong performers in the last couple of weeks out at Blacktown during the AP Cup and Summer Slam, and we’re confident in the squad we’ve picked to travel over to the States for the NPF.
“We’ll be keeping a close eye on players because that will essentially be the final chance for them to really put their hand up for Olympic selection.”
Of the 20 selected, only two players have experienced Olympic selection previously, pitcher Justine Smethurst in 2008 and Australian captain Stacey Porter in 2004 and 2008.
All 20 have previously represented the Travelodge Aussie Spirit at international level.
Following the NPF in late June, the final team of 15 will be selected for the Tokyo Olympic Games before flying to Japan where they’ll take part in a short training camp based in Ota City.
Australia has a proud history at the Olympics in softball, winning a medal in every Games the sport has been included in with Bronze in 1996, 2000 and 2008, and Silver in 2004.
A training camp for the squad will be held at the Australian Institute of Sport from 4-8 March.
The Travelodge Aussie Spirit squad of 20 includes:
- Janice Blackman, Qld – Mariners Softball Club
- Michelle Cox, NSW – Davidson Softball Club
- Chelsea Forkin, Qld – Bears Softball Club
- Leigh Godfrey, WA – Freemantle Mariners
- Rachel Lack, NSW – Wahroonga Softball Club
- Stacey McManus, NSW – Southern Storm Softball Club
- Tahli Moore, NSW – Kissing Point Softball Club
- Kaia Parnaby, NSW – Saints Softball Club / North Shore District Softball Association
- Leah Parry, WA – Freemantle Mariners
- Gabbie Plain, NSW – Macarthur Softball Association
- Stacey Porter, NSW – Panthers Softball Club
- Ellen Roberts, NSW – Kissing Point Softball Club
- Justine Smethurst, Qld – Panthers Softball Club / Softball Far North Queensland
- Carmelle Sorensen, Qld – Panthers Softball Club
- Tarni Stepto, NSW – Davidson Softball Club
- Taylah Tsitsikronis, NSW – Penrith Softball Club
- Jade Wall, Qld – Saints Softball Club / Davidson Softball Club / PCYC Redcliffe Softball Association
- Clare Warwick, ACT – Boomerangs Softball Club
- Belinda White, SA – Sturt Falcons
- Tamieka Whitefield, Qld – Scorpions Softball Club
For more information on the NPF, visit profastpitch.com.