2028 Olympics goal front-of-mind for White Sox as next generation talents named in training squad

The White Sox have named an expanded unit featuring several current under-18 representatives for their 2021 training squad as focus continues to go towards qualifying for the 2028 Olympics.

White Sox players celebrate with captain Lara Andrews (9) after her home run against Australia at the 2019 Asia Pacific Cup.

Coach Romain Gabriel announced a 40-strong squad today which contains eight new selections, five of which are currently members of the Junior White Sox squad - Auckland's Tyarn Bromhead-Lemalu, Meeki Cooper-Nicola, Shyah Hale, Karstein Fuimaono and Ocearn Matthews.

“It has been over a year since we named our first training squad and we’ve had a few athletes that couldn’t commit to the programme between then and now," Gabriel said.

"So we’ve decided to add to our squad to ensure we continue to develop our athletes and build on our pool of players.”

Gabriel, a former Black Sox infielder and 2004 world champion, instilled the goal of reaching the 2028 Olympics early on in his tenure as coach since taking over in December 2019.

As part of that mantra, he said the inclusion of young talent such as the Auckland quintet named today is vital to their future success.

“We have included some very talented young athletes this time round, who have not necessarily been exposed to high level softball yet, but feel they have that X-Factor and with some guidance over the next 3-4 years could be quality international players," Gabriel said.

"We also felt we needed to develop some power from the right side of the batter’s box, so have included some young left-hand hitters. I am excited to see how far these young ones take this opportunity."

Also included in the squad are some of the most-capped White Sox in history with the likes of Kyla and Rebecca Bromhead, Katrina Nukunuku and Lara Andrews all present.

From the squad announced today, Gabriel plans to divide the selected into two teams for the upcoming Quad Series in October but confirmed others not named today could also feature in the tournament due to some players having US College commitments.

"I’m looking forward to working with these new members of the squad and really testing them to see if they have what it takes to compete and win at the international level."

Softball was featured at the Olympics from 1996 to 2008 before it was removed. In that time, New Zealand only competed once at the 2000 Games in Sydney where they finished sixth.

The sport was then brought back for this year’s Tokyo Games which the White Sox attempted to qualify for in 2019 but faltered with losses to China, Korea and the Philippines.

White Sox Training Squad 2021

Tyla Morrison, Loran Parker, Tyneesha Houkamau, Sachi Clark*, Kyla Bromhead, Ash Scott, Tyarn Bromhead-Lemalu*, Rebecca Bromhead, Katrina Nukunuku, Mereana Makea, Pearl-Marli Waetford, Shyah Hale, Karstein Fuimaono*, Ocearn Matthews*, Krysta Hoani, Brook Whiteman, Richlyn Reign- Tuhoro*, Meeki Cooper Nicola* (Auckland), Amy Begg, Brittany Terry, Cherie Inwood, Layla McDowell*, Mikayla Werahiko, Lucy McIntyre, Nerissa McDowell (Canterbury), Otila Tivate, Lara Andrews, Pallas Potter, Ashley Johnston, Denva Shaw-Tait, Lace Tangianau*, Caitlyn Lewin, Yvonne Burgess, Mikayla Lewin, Erin Blackmore, Kiri Winiata-Enoka (Hutt Valley), Emma Francis, Hope Weber,  Lisei Le’aupepe* (Wellington), Tania Puketapu (Victoria, Australia) 

(* denotes new selection)