It’s time again, the best week of the year for many of our open women as they compete for National Championship honours in the 72nd Gilley’s Shield at Mirrabooka Softball Stadium in Perth, Western Australia from 5-11 January.
NSW Firestars are the defending champions after success on the diamond at Mirrabooka Softball Stadium last year. Their resounding victory over Queensland Heat last year sets NSW up for a crack at a three-peat, and their 22nd Gilley’s Shield title to equal Victoria for the most number of titles.
Who will stop them? The 72nd edition of the Gilley’s Shield will be one of the most hotly contested events in recent history.
Queensland Heat have featured in the last four championship finals and are always a force to be reckoned with. A new coach in 2019 will bring a fresh look for the team, however with the loss of Justine Smethurst and Melinda Weaver, they have lost some firepower in their line-up. The team however features a number of Travelodge Aussie Spirit players who will need to step up at this tournament for any chance of a national championship title.
SA Starz set the ground work with a surprise 3rd place finish in 2018 and all indications are that the team are on track to be competing on the final day of play. Lead by catcher, Belinda White and outstanding American import, Jailyn Ford, Starz’s boast one of the best battery’s of the week and will dominate many hitters in the competition.
Travelodge Aussie Spirit players Maddie Cameron and Chelsea Robinson will want to contribute strongly to their team’s performance this year in a bid to reach the final.
Victoria Titans bring a mixture of youth and experience to this year’s event. Titans reached the finals for the first time in 14 years in 2018 and are desperate to improve this year. Led by Sarah Tutchener, Jackie Di Siervi and Marina Walker, their great defensive ability will limit the opposition runs.
US import, Monica Perry is back in Australia ready to fire against some of the world’s best hitters. Perry last pitched in Australia in 2017 and if she can reproduce that form, the Titans will be amongst the top teams. The Titans ability to score runs will be key to their success against their opposition.
Italians Greta Cecchetti, Ilaria Cacciamani and Marta Gasparotto will add significant strength to the ACT Diamonds defence this year. Cecchetti is no stranger to softball in Australia and will be leading the way in the pitching attack for ACT.
Cecchetti combined with Cacciamani at the World Championships in 2018 in the circle to get some big wins for the Italians and for ACT to be successful this year, they will need those two to combine as well as they did for their home country. Clare Warwick has been the consistent workhorse in the line-up for many years and will need to have another big tournament this year for ACT to compete for the championships.
Local favourites, Western Australia Flames are the dark horse of the championship in 2019. The Flames were disappointed in their performance last year, however, no doubt will be back bigger and better this year.
The inclusion of imports, Jordan Taylor and Katie Donovan and the return of Leah Parry will compliment an outstanding line-up which is on the brink national championship glory. Flames will go deep into the line-up in the batting box and there are no obvious areas of weakness in their squad. Local fans will want to get ready for a great week of softball from the Flames and book that seat early for the final day of play.
NSW Firestars, 21 titles in 71 years, and by far the most dominant team in recent history. Despite the Porter and Parnaby factor, don’t expect this week to be easy for the Firestars as they vie for their third consecutive title.
The return of veteran Zara Masters after six years will add experience and wisdom to a talented pitching line up. Tarni Stepto will make her debut at the Gilley’s Shield and will form part of the strongest pitching line-ups of the event, with four Travelodge Aussie Spirit pitchers.
Expect Porter, Tsitsikronis and McManus to feature strongly in the offense in a team that offers power, speed and versatility. NSW Firestars will be there on the final day without a doubt, however if they win the title again this year, it will require all 16 players to contribute in the hot Perth weather.