Two of Southland's promising young female softballers are about to experience the trip of a lifetime in Australia.
Southland Girls' High School pupils Courtney Milne and Jazara Hopa will join the New Zealand Softball Academy under-15 girls' side for the nine-day trip to Sydney this week.
"It will be a chance to develop more skills and increase my softball ability at international level, and hopefully will help me gain selection into Softball New Zealand's talent identification programme and development teams," Milne said.
Jazara added: "My dream is to get a scholarship to play softball at a high school or college level in the States, then for the White Sox in New Zealand."
Southland Girls' High School pupil Hopa, a pitcher and catcher who at 12 years old made the tournament team at South Island under-15 level as an MVP, secondary schools' division 1 tournament team, and also competed at u-17 nationals said: "We will gain experience with teams and players who are used to playing at a higher level and improve our knowledge of the game."
Milne is also a Southland Girls' pupil, a third and first base player who has been a member of the Southland u-15 team for a number of years.
"I'm excited and nervous, this is really a dream to be doing this, I can't wait to experience a tournament of this magnitude and take in everything."
With friends and extended family, the pair have raised $2000 to help fund their trip.
Courtney's mother Donna Milne has formed a partnership with Craig Waterhouse, the founder of the New Zealand academy, which has created opportunities for talented Southland softballers including Greg Baker, Jacob Hansen, Dylan Richardson, Devon Robinson, Kloe Milne, Tane and Tia Tuhakaraina since 2011.
"We both believe that exposing our youth to international experiences will improve softball's retainment of this critical 13 to 18 age group," Waterhouse said.
"If we get the development right, it will give them the incentive to stay [in softball], that 13 to 18 age retention is key."
Milne said there needed to be pathways and greater opportunities for all young softballers in the region to keep them in the sport.
- The Southland Times