Tamworth native Stacey Porter is one step closer to a third Olympics after being named in the 20-strong Aussie Spirit squad to compete in the 2020 National Professional Fastpitch (NPF) League.
The squad was selected following the recent Australia Pacific Cup and Summer Slam - Fully Loaded Softball tournaments and will travel to the United States in late May to compete in the NPF. They will play under the banner of the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota and face-off against elite level competition as part of their preparation for the sport's return to the Olympics in July.
"Our inaugural season with the Aussie Peppers of Minnesota in 2019 was crucial for our high performance program which enabled us to go through the WBSC Asia/Oceania Olympic qualification event undefeated. We are delighted to continue this relationship in 2020 to use it as a springboard for our Olympic campaign," David Pryles, Chief Executive Officer of Softball Australia, said.
Aussie Spirit head coach Laing Harrow said choosing just 20 athletes was difficult with a number of players narrowly missing out.
"There was always going to be tough decisions to be made in a couple of positions, especially in an Olympic year," Harrow said.
"We had a lot of strong performers in the last couple of weeks out at Blacktown during the AP Cup and Summer Slam, and we're confident in the squad we've picked to travel over to the States for the NPF."
"We'll be keeping a close eye on players because that will essentially be the final chance for them to really put their hand up for Olympic selection."
Following the tournament, in late June, the final team of 15 will be selected for the Tokyo Olympic Games before flying to Japan where they'll take part in a short training camp based in Ota City.
Porter, the Aussie Spirit captain, is one of only two players in the squad to have experienced an Olympics campaign, playing at the 2004 and 2008 games.
The squad will come together early next month for a training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport.
Porter will then head over to Japan to suit up for her 13th season in the Japanese league.