U23 Men – History and Winners

Laing Harrow Shield
U23 Men’s Championship

The Pacific International Fastpitch Tournament, as it was originally known, was introduced into the Australian softball calendar in 1997 by Queensland Softball Association to provide an elite level competition in the U23 age division.

The Association selected an U23 Women’s team to tour New Zealand in 1994 and after three tours made the decision to run a tournament in in Queensland.

Teams competing in the first tournament were Papua New Guinea, Mariana Islands, New South Wales and Queensland with New South Wales victorious. In the second year, Queensland entered an U18 team and the Chinese-Taipei sent their Olympic squad as part of their preparation for the South Pacific Classic. Hutt Valley join the competition in 1999 and Victoria in 2000.

The men’s competition commenced in 1999 with New South Wales hosting this for the first time. Five teams competed in the U23 Men’s competition, Queensland U23 and U18s New South Wales U23 and Country and ACT. Victoria joined the tournament in 2000.

In 2000, Queensland hosted the first combined tournament: New South Wales, Queensland (two teams) and Victoria competed with New South Wales taking out both competitions.

Laing Harrow Shield

Laing Harrow epitomizes all that is Australian men’s softball. A consummate professional both on and off the diamond, there is no young softball player who does not know his name or aspire to be like him.

Laing immigrated to Australia in 1987 when Softball Canberra secured the coaching services of his father, Bob. He represented Australia at the 1988 ISF Men’s World Championship (Saskatoon, Canada) at the age of 18 years after being selected from the ACT U19 state team.

In an era where the Australian men’s softball program only generated activity within the 12 months leading into a world championship, Laing went on to represent Australia at the 1992 ISF Men’s World Championship (Manila, Philippines) and captained the Australian men’s team to the 1996 ISF Men’s World Championship (Michigan, USA), which for the first time since their introduction to world championship competition, secured a final’s berth.

Laing retired from international competition after accumulating 37 caps for Australia. Up until the 2004 ISF Men’s Softball World Championship in Christchurch, Canada, he was one of only three Australian men’s softball players to have participated in three senior men’s world championships.

Laing also stepped down from state competition in 1998 after 12 years’ service to the ACT which included three senior men’s national titles, 1998, 1990 and 1993, and two major awards – Best Batter 1998 and Most Valuable Player 1993.

In 2001, Laing was Assistant Coach under Lindsey Carroll of the victorious Australian U19 men’s team who took gold at the VI ISF Junior Men’s World Championship in Sydney. He made his senior coaching debut alongside his father during a tour of New Zealand, also in 2001, which saw the Australian men’s team defeat the New Zealand Black Sox for the first time in their 13-year competitive history.

In addition to his Australian softball achievements, Laing has also represented the Canadian Youth team and Australia at senior and junior level in ice hockey.

In October 2002, Softball Canberra nominated Laing for ASF Hall of Fame membership for services rendered to softball. His nomination was successful, and he became only the second male, and first male softball player to receive this national softball honour.

In 2003, Laing was further recognised with perhaps one of softball’s greatest honors: his name was bestowed on Australian softball’s newest men’s competition, the Australian U23 Men’s Fastpitch Championship, known as the Laing Harrow Shield.

In October the same year, Laing achieved the ultimate hat-trick when he became the first Australian men’s softball player to be inducted into the International Softball Federation Hall of Fame.

Award winners

2004 NSW in Sydney
2005 Australia U19 in Canberra
2006 ACT in Brisbane
2007 ACT in Melbourne
2015 Qld in Qld