Mill Park’s Cheetahs Softball Club had 12 junior members play at state championships this year. Pictured from back left are Kya Chapman, Remy Moore, Caitlin Laird, Hannah Scott and Jorja Fernando, front, Jordan Baker and Ethan Scott. Absent are Bailey Dodds, Joshua Opasinov, Amy Pullar, Max White and Georgia Sands.

WHILE the COVID-19 pandemic has caused many sporting competitions across Australia to be cancelled or postponed, it has not stopped Mill Park’s Cheetahs Softball Club from celebrating the achievements of its junior players.

The Cheetahs, who play in the Northern District Softball Association and field players from the Whittlesea region, had 12 junior players picked for state teams this year.

President Kerry Laird said it was the highest number of state representatives from the club in her 17 years there.

“They put in a lot of work. It was at least six months of training and travelling around to different grounds,” she said.

“I think we had so many players picked because they have skill and passion for the sport, but they’re also given opportunities to play as much as they can and encouraged to do winter academies and development programs.

“Their families are usually running around to two or three training sessions a week, not to mention the cost that goes into it.”

Ms Laird said several of the players picked for Victorian teams had gone on to represent Australia.

Her daughter, Caitlin Laird, travelled to Minnesota in the United States as part of an Australian team last year.

Caitlin said she was proud to be a state player and national representative.

“It’s been great to represent an association like Northern and a club like Cheetahs. I’ve been playing state softball for about five years now and was lucky enough to be picked in the Australian Diamonds side last year,” she said.

“It was unbelievable. Travelling internationally to play a sport I love and representing my country is pretty cool.”

Jordan Baker was one of three under-14 Cheetahs players to win a national championship with the Victorian team this year.

It was the first time a Victorian team had defeated traditional powerhouses New South Wales and Queensland at a national championship in several years.

He described the experience as ‘fun and exciting’ and said he was striving to win another national championship next year.

Ms Laird said COVID-19 had caused the cancellation of the association’s summer-league finals and winter season.

One of the club’s players was due to fly to Queensland this week for the International Friendship Series but was prevented by the pandemic.

Ms Laird said the club hoped to resume normal competition later this year.
“I know they’re all itching to get back out there, but like everyone else we’re waiting,” she said.

“Fingers crossed we can get back in time for summer and they can have trials and do it all again.”

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