2 February 2024

Representative stars shining a light on Wagga softball

| Michael Murphy
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Wagga softball players

Wagga softball players Alex Maiden, Braith Warren and Austin Gooden before travelling to Western Australia for the Softball Australia National Titles. Photo: Wagga Softball Association.

Softball might not be the first thing that springs to mind when locals are asked about summer sports, but a group of talented local players are shining a light on the game in Wagga through their exploits at representative level.

Six Wagga-based players took part in the Softball Australia National Titles that were held at Mirrabooka, Western Australia, in January, with another junior playing at the ACT regionals.

The recognition of the local softball players is testimony to the Wagga association’s hard work, and the players’ dedication to the game, which often sees them travel hundreds of kilometres over a weekend to pursue their sporting goals.

Founded in 1970, the Wagga Wagga Softball Association (WWSA) has a proud history of providing an opportunity for men, women and children to participate in a competitive and dynamic sport.

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Having originated in the American city of Chicago in the late 19th century, softball was first introduced to Australia in 1939 as part of the physical education curriculum in NSW schools.

Turvey Park, Saints, South Wagga and Lake Albert are the four Wagga-based clubs that field teams in junior and senior competitions, while the Albury Comets fielded a side in the women’s premier league this season.

Prue Adams is president of the WWSA and she spoke to Region about the positive impact the young representative players could have on softball in the local area.

“The success of our representative players allows others to see there is still an opportunity for regional-based players to aspire to,” Adams said.

“Being regionally based, the players have committed months, and many hours of travel, for games, trials and training to be selected in the teams.”

Braith Warren

Braith Warren in action for the NSW under-18s side at the nationals at Mirrabooka (Perth) WA. Photo: Braith Warren.

Wagga residents Braith Warren and Austin Gooden are two examples of the dedication Adams speaks of.

Both young men learnt the game in Wagga and were part of the NSW under-16 team that won the nationals in 2022, backing up for the NSW under-18 side this year. Warren now travels to Sydney each week to play for the Mounties and he relished the opportunity to play alongside Gooden once again, who lines up for Turvey Park in both the youth and men’s teams.

Warren enjoyed the nationals, and said the side acquitted themselves well in Western Australia, dealing with injury and illness to progress to the semi-final stages of the tournament.

The rising star also thanked his parents for their endless support.

“The experience was great flying over to Perth,” Warren said.

“I think the boys played really well. We had a lot of obstacles thrown at us with the heat over in Perth, and playing three games a day. Most of the team were not at their best due to being sick or injured, but we were able to make the semis.

“We had our top-two pitchers go down, one of those being Austin Gooden, who was unfortunately injured on the first day.”

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Every sport has its sets of sibling stars, and the WWSA is no exception, with brother and sister Todd and Alex Maiden from the Turvey Park club representing the ACT at this year’s nationals.

Todd played in the under-23s, while Alex, who attends Kooringal High, took part in both the under-18 and under-23 women’s competitions. In November of 2023, Alex had the honour of representing Australia at the under-18 WBSC World Cup Oceania qualifiers, which were held in American Samoa.

The inclusion of the Albury Comets into the 2023-24 WWSA Women’s Premier League, not only added depth to that competition but also saw Mikayla Jonker earn selection in the Victorian under-18s team.

The NSW u18 team that Braith Warren and Austin Gooden were a part of.

The NSW U18 team that Braith Warren and Austin Gooden were a part of. Photo: NSW Softball.

The WWSA is community and family orientated, and it begins its development of softball players with the under-10s tee ball. From that introduction, the players progress to under-14s softball, and then the youth game which sees boys and girls from 14 to 18 years of age take part.

The success of this development program is further illustrated with Lake Albert player Luke Armstrong gaining selection in the under-16 NSW squad before playing for the ACT under-16s as a pick-up player at the nationals.

The ‘pick-up’ system is run from a national draft, with states and territories selecting in reverse order based on the previous national title standings.

Up-and-coming under-14 player Dieter Warren also made the NSW squad and was selected as a pickup player for the ACT at the under-14 regionals which were held at Hawker in the ACT over 24-29 January.

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