22/02/2020 - 01/03/2020

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U-18 Men's Softball World Cup 2020 - Official Payoff

Riley’s ready: Why culture is key to Australia’s championship defence

Riley’s ready: Why culture is key to Australia’s championship defence
Australian captain Riley James spoke to the WBSC before his team began their U-18 Men's Softball World Cup campaign.

Riley James has been here before, but not like this.

The 18-year-old from Mackay in Queensland was the youngest member of the 2018 Australian team that won gold in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, and returns as the captain of a 2020 team that is aiming for back-to-back world championships.

James and his Australian teammates defeated Japan 6-1 in the 2018 Championship game, behind Layton Reid's historic pitching performance and home runs from Ryan King and Jeremy Waters.

The left-handed catcher went 1-for-3 with six walks in the 2018 World Cup, making starts against India, Denmark and South Africa.

But this time around, James comes into the tournament as a vital part of Australia’s title defence.

“We all have one goal at this tournament,” James said.

“We know what we want to do and know what works for us, the goal is to go back-to-back.”

The Australian Junior Men’s National Softball Team is the most successful program in history, having won four consecutive championships from 1997 to 2008 as well as the most recent edition in 2018. The culture of success in Australian softball continues to motivate James, who has tasted success at this level.

“Our culture is one of the most important things we have,” James asserted.

“The importance of having guys around you like helps with confidence, helps you enjoy it more and ultimately will play a massive role in us going back-to-back.”

Western Australian Dawson Summers was James’ captain in 2018, and has influenced James ahead of this World Cup.

“Dawson lead the team very well,” James said.

“He had a great ability to calm everyone down in those pressure moments.

“There’s always going to be nerves playing in a big tournament like this, but having that experience calms me down and helps me focus on what I can do.

“A lot of the boys have asked me what it was like playing in a World Cup, and it’s great I can give them an idea of what it was like in 2018.”

Australian head coach Adam Rindfleish has full confidence in James at this U-18 World Cup.

“He’s an exceptional leader,” Rindfleish said.

“There are different types of captains, those that lead by example, by motivation or through what they say.

“Riley is a fantastic combination of all of those, and was an easy choice to make as captain.”