Two very different Canberrans – one with a softball pedigree and the other originally from country NSW – will take on the world at the under-23 Men’s Softball World Cup this April.
The 2023 Cup comes off the back of the Australian national team, the Aussie Steelers, taking home gold at the last men’s world championships in Auckland, New Zealand.
Matt Harrow, who helped carry Australia to a 5-2 victory against Canada in 2022, hopes to repeat the Steelers’ success in what will be his third World Cup.
“We go over with the one goal of bringing home the gold medal,” he says.
“I definitely have a quiet confidence leading into the tournament, although it won’t come easy.
“There’s a lot of good talent going around with the other countries so it’ll be a tough tournament.”
The three-time Australian team member comes from a long line of softball greats, with his father and grandfather both having played and coached the sport at the national level.
“I was born into a very softball-heavy family … so I was pretty lucky growing up in a softball household,” Matt says.
“It’s an absolute honour, it always is, to get the call-up to represent your country.
“And to be one of only two ACT players, it makes me really proud.”
But Matt says training with just one other national team member also made things more difficult than in other states.
When stand-by members are included in the tally, 19 of the 22-man national team hail from either NSW or Queensland.
“But we’ve been able to play games in the whole lead-up and the whole prep,” Matt says.
“I haven’t really had that before, leading up into my previous world championships, so I was pretty fortunate.
“Other than that, Nathan and I have been training very hard with a few training sessions a week.”
Nathan Lynch has a very different story from Matt, with his beginnings hundreds of kilometres north of Canberra, in regional NSW.
“When I used to live in Orange, I had some friends that used to live down the road from me that got me involved in softball,” he says.
“They pushed to have me try out and I had a natural talent to throw the ball pretty far, which got me into some teams.
“Ever since then, I’ve had the opportunity to keep getting better and developing my game.”
Nathan has played at the national championships for the past six years since, but it wasn’t until 2023 that he got the call inviting him to join the Australian team.
“It’s something I’ve dreamed of my entire life. I’ve always wanted to wear the green and gold and to be representing the ACT … is a huge honour,” he says.
“One of the goals that we’re going in with is to push for that gold medal … but anything can happen on the day and you’re facing the world’s best.”
Australia’s 16-man national team will travel to the riverside Argentinian city of Parana from 15 to 23 April to face off against 11 other national teams.
These are (in descending order of their 2022 standing) Canada, the US, Argentina, Cuba, Venezuela, Japan, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, the Philippines, South Africa and Denmark.
But Nathan says his personal goal has been to give back to the community and keep softball alive and growing in Australia.
“I love the game and I just want heaps of other kids to be playing it and push them through to these levels,” he says.
“Because those who have been around the sport just know how much it’s been shrinking over the years.”
Nathan and Matt have been coaching the under-19 ACT team, trying to spread the softball bug at home as well as abroad.