Having been on the edge of national selection for a few years, Tara Speakman is about to get her first chance at representing her country. And she intends to make the most of it.
So much so that she has put aside her other sporting passion, Australian rules football, to ensure she gets to wear the green and gold in the Japan Cup next month.
At 24, Speakman is relatively old for a player making her international softball debut. Her elevation to the Aussie Spirit squad for the Japan Cup is a reward for her perseverance and dedication to training, never losing sight of her goal of representing Australia despite having missed selection previously.
And once she made the team, her season as vice-captain of the Aspley Hornets AFL club in suburban Brisbane was over.
Two years ago Speakman was out of action because of a severe knee injury sustained in a football game. She managed to be back playing softball again in only six months — much faster than the usual recovery time from a torn ACL — but the experience highlighted the risk of another injury.
“As this is my first time representing Australia, I didn’t want to disappoint myself that much by getting injured playing another sport,” she said.
“As much as I love AFL, softball will always be number one for me, so I had to step down because of the risk. I wasn’t prepared to put myself through that again.”
Speakman’s solid performances for the Queensland Heat in the Gilley’s Shield were enough to impress national selectors, including Head Coach Fabian Barlow.
“Tara is a strong-hitting third base player who will be on her first international tour for the Aussie Spirit,” Barlow said. “She has been on the periphery of the national team for a few years and now gets her opportunity in Japan to showcase her skills against world-class competition.”
Speakman’s softball journey began in suburban Brisbane at age 10, when she followed in the footsteps of her mother, who played softball while growing up.
“I wanted to get into rugby league, but my parents thought that was probably not a good idea,” she said. “So they took me to play softball instead.”
When she takes the field in the Japanese city of Takasaki next month, it will Speakman’s first time representing the Spirit. If all goes to plan, she will be in the team for a long time, with a particular eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics if softball is reinstated as an Olympic sport.
“It’s always been a dream to be in the Olympics as a player,” Speakman said. “So it would be the pinnacle for me personally to be there in 2020. And it would be massive for the sport as a whole.
“Currently I’m involved in a lot of junior softball, and I can see that unfortunately we are losing some players to other sports that have more to offer than we do. So the Olympics would bring a lot of life back into the sport.”
The Aussie Spirit team for the Japan Cup
|Janice Blackman, Qld||Kaia Parnaby, NSW||Erin Thras, Qld|
|Amelia Cudicio, NSW||Sam Poole, NSW||Taylah Tsitsikronis, NSW|
|Jemma Freegard, WA||Stacey Porter, NSW||Clare Warwick, ACT|
|Sandra Holden, Qld||Carmelle Sorensen, Qld|
|Rachel Lack, NSW||Tara Speakman, Qld|
|Stacey McManus, NSW||Vanessa Stokes, SA|