White Sox squad score a trans-Tasman coup

TONY SMITH
Last updated 13:15 17/03/2014

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The White Sox have pulled off a trans-Tasman sporting coup by snaring Australia's non-travelling reserve Stacey Webber for New Zealand's squad for the women's softball world softball championships.

Webber, a 21-year-old power hitter capable of playing first base, third base and catcher, was born in Queensland to Kiwi parents and has dual citizenship.

She represented Australia at the Canada Cup tournament this year, but will be released to play for New Zealand after a deal struck between White Sox coach Naomi Shaw and Australia's head coach Kere Johanson, a former New Zealand Black Sox world champion, and the New Zealand and Australian softball associations.Webber first came to Shaw's attention as a 13-year-old playing for Bay of Plenty at the New Zealand under-19 tournament in Tauranga.

''She hit the ball over the [outfield] fence for a home run, which was pretty impressive for someone so young,'' Shaw said.

Webber's mother hails from Napier and her father is from Katikati, near Tauranga. The family have been based in Queensland for more than 20 years, but their Kiwi roots remain strong.

''We are all All Blacks and Black Sox fans in th is house; there are no Aussie teams [supported] here,'' Webber said today from Brisbane.

Getting a chance to represent New Zealand was ''pretty special''.Webber said was a little disappointed to miss selection in the Australian squad for August's world championships in Holland, but said her performances for the Queensland Heat at the Gilley's Shield inter-state series were ''a bit on an off''.

But a call from Shaw to inquire about her availability for New Zealand offered her a second chance.

''She rang me a couple of weeks ago and said she was that the [Australian] team had got announced and that I was a non-travelling reserve. She got hold of my Aussie coach [Johanson] and rang me.''

Webber was keen from the outset but said she wanted to speak to Johanson herself first ''before I gave her a clear answer. ''

He confirmed he was prepared to release her.''

Shaw said Softball New Zealand would ''release Stacey back'' if she is selected for future Australian teams. She said there was no stand-down period required under International Softball Federation rules for players with dual citizenship.But the White Sox are still sweating over the status of American-born pitcher Jennifer Feret, who has applied for residency and citizenship after five years in Auckland.

Shaw was confident her papers would be completed in time for the tournament. ''She's fulfilled all her requirements for residency and citizenship. It's just a mater of getting the paperwork approved. We've got some good people working on it.''

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The White Sox have seven players, aged 20 and under, including pitcher Courtney Gettins and infielder Mikayla Werahiko, who were earlier named in the Junior White Sox under-19 team to travel to the Canada Cup tournament near Vancouver in July.

Five players are currently based in the United States where they are playing, or in outfielder Lara Andrews' case, coaching in the American college system.

Shaw believes she has a ''stronger hitting team'' than the squad that played in the last world championships in Canada in 2012 with the lineup led by American-based outfielder Te Reo Powhiri Matautia, who is now recovered from an injury that forced her to withdraw from the Gilley's Shield transtasman series tournament in Auckland last December.

Australian-based infielder Brooke McManus, who debuted for New Zealand at the 2012 tournament, was unavailable for selection due to her commitments with the Australian navy.

The White Sox squad is: Pitchers: Megan Farrell, Jennifer Feret, Michal Tangaroa (Auckland), Taylor-Paige Stewart, Tyneesha Houkamau (USA), Courtney Gettins (Hawke's Bay). Catchers: Melanie Gettins (Hawke's Bay), Kyla Bromhead (Auckland). Infielders: Rebecca Bromhead, Katrina Nukunuku (Auckland), Cassie Siataga, Mikayla Werahiko (Canterbury), Danica Ferriso (Hutt Valley), Stacey Webber (Queensland). Outfielders: Lara Andrews, Ellie Cooper, Te Reo Powhiri Matautia (United States). 

- Fairfax Media

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