It might be called softball, but South Launceston teenager Connor Wattke only knows how to play hard.
One of only 60 registered players in Northern Tasmania, the Launceston College student grew up in a softballing family and has played since the age of six.
The 17-year-old pitcher-catcher plays for Eagles in the Northern Tasmania Softball Association but has taken his game to the mainland and even to international waters in recent times.
As well as playing in Canada with Aussie Sparks last year, the left-handed batter and right-handed thrower kitted up for Victoria as the only Tasmanian in January’s under-19 national championships.
To qualify, Wattke regularly travels to Victoria to play for the Werribee Giants and take part in state trainings –an opportunity orchestrated by national under-19 assistant coach Darren Hebditch.
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“Darren got in contact with the Victorian coach and said ‘there’s a player in Tassie looking to play why don’t you give him a go in a trial’?” Wattke said.
“There were two trials and from there there were 18 boys and we had to get cut down to 12 to 13 boys to play in nationals, so I made the cut and I had to play for a state league team over there every Tuesday night.”
Australia’s under-19s were recently crowned world champions, and it’s the prospect of a spot on the open nationals team that is keeping Wattke motivated enough to work at Hungry Jack’s, fly interstate regularly and do up to five gym sessions a week to improve his game.
“I hope to make the Aussie Steelers side - the open men’s side for Australia.
“I went on tour with the assistant coach (Hebditch) and he said it’d be three or four years time (until I could) make a squad and from then you get picked into the national side.”
Mum Alison Taggart said pursuing softball in Tasmania was a difficult undertaking despite Australia being one of the world’s best sides.
“The perception is that softball is a female sport, but Australia has featured in the top four in the past 10 or 12 world championships,” Taggart said.
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