Softballer realises dream in World title winning run
Softball: Not many can lay claim to representing their country on the world stage, but Habana softballer Riley James feels he's one of the lucky ones.
After securing his childhood dream of suiting up in the green and gold, James went one better in Canada this month, as his Junior Steelers Australian Under-19 side claimed a World Championships gold medal.
Coming in as the world's sixth-ranked ranked junior side, James said the Junior Steelers' focus was on winning the world title, which they did after defeating Japan in the final.
"We tried to do our best for eachother, and it was our goal to win the World Championship, and we did it,” he said.
Significantly, the Junior Steelers victory over Japan to lift the title turned the tables on the number one-ranked side in the world, who defeated the Australian's 3-2 in the pool matches.
James said his side banded together and studied the Japanese side after the loss, which sparked the gold medal run.
"We had the team to do it and we knew we had the team to do it,” James said.
"We didn't start doubting ourselves, we knew it was a close game and we probably didn't play our best.
"But we knew we had the chance to be better than them, so we backed ourselves and moved forward.”
Outpointing Japan in the semi-finals, the side was clinical in the final, with 17-year-old pitcher Layton Reid recording 15 strike outs and a no hitter as the Junior Steelers downed the Japanese 6-1 in front of a large crowd in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
The Steelers' youngest player at just 16, James defied his age as the side's vice-captain and catcher.
While the journey from Mackay to Canada was a long one, it's a path James has tracked since picking up a bat in the backyard of his family home in Habana as a child.
Although it was always his dream to represent Australia, he's not done yet and now he's had a taste, he wants far more.
"There's not many words to describe it (representing Australia). It's been my goal since I was a little kid... it amazed me to show everyone I could do it,” James said.
"It was unreal to play with the older boys, and there's only a few that get that privilege to play for their country, so the experience was amazing.
"But I just want more... there's so much more out there to achieve, so I just want to keep moving forward,” he said.
With the World Championships played every two years, James' age would see him able to qualify again for the Steelers, but with the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, the World's have been pushed back to 2021, where the age group will drop to under-18s.
But with the chance of an under-23 side forming for 2022, James has set his sites on securing more glory in the green and gold.