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Eight Aussie Spirit players are headed for the adventure of a lifetime when they join the Chicago Bandits in the U.S. National Pro Fastpitch (NPF) league.

Softball Australia has announced the players who have recently signed professional contracts with the Bandit, following the partnership announcement in February.

  • Janice Blackman
  • Chelsea Forkin
  • Rachel Lack
  • Stacey McManus
  • Kaia Parnaby
  • Samantha Poole
  • Ellen Roberts
  • Taylah Tsitsikronis

The Bandits, who won the NPF championship the past two years, play at a purpose-built stadium in Rosemont, Illinois, one of the premier softball facilities in the USA.

According to Softball Australia High Performance Manager Andrew Utting, the deal with the Bandits will improve Australia’s chances of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Qualifying for that huge event begins next year, and the Bandits players will have had a season of top-level competition under their belts by then.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for these eight players to be full-time professional athletes who can concentrate 100 per cent on softball,” Utting says.

“They’ll be exposed to a level of competition that will be a tremendous benefit to them as individuals and to the team as we look towards the 2018 [WBSC Women’s Softball] World Championship and qualifying for Tokyo 2020.

“The experience of training and competing at that level against top-quality opposition is an environment we can’t create in Australia, and it will help us bridge the gap on the US and other countries whose players benefit from playing professionally.”

The players will receive a scholarship payment from Softball Australia, plus a per diem living and meals allowance.

In 2017 NPF regular season action, 120 games are scheduled leading up the Championship Series, held in mid-August.

The NPF has five affiliate teams from Akron, Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Orlando, featuring top talent from the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

The season will kick off June 1 when the Akron Racers and Chicago Bandits match-up for a three-game series at The Ballpark at Rosemont. Regular season action will conclude on August 13, with the top four finishers moving onto the Championship Series.