CrestClean’s Steve Willis helps lead Panthers to victory in memorable season

Southland Panthers won the Calder Mackay shield for the first time in 25 years.

The Panthers softball team secured a double victory over the ‘23/’24 season, taking home both the Calder Mackay Shield and the Intercity Cup.

A special shoutout to our Southland Regional Manager Steve Willis, who played a pivotal role by pitching the championship game. This is the first time in 25 years that the Panthers have won the Calder Mackay Shield, breaking the winning streak of carryover champions, the Demons.

He might be the oldest in the team, but Steve remains a force on the pitch and leads by example for the younger players.

“Softball’s been a huge part of my life for a very long time,” he says.

“Last year I was prepared to retire but felt the calling for the season this year and it was the best season the Panthers ever had.”

Steve also won the Golden Glove Award for the season, meaning he got through a whole season without making an error on the field. This award covers all Major League Men’s teams in Southland.

Softball is in Steve’s blood. His father was a keen softball player who played professionally, and his son plays for the U7 team. Steve has also played professionally for Western Australia, Southland and Otago, taking only one season off since the age of four due to a rugby injury.

The Southland Panthers proudly pose with the Intercity Cup.

“When I was a kid, my father played and I’d go down after my games and spend all day at the ballpark with him or sit down and watch him play,” says Steve.

With many years of softball success under his belt, Steve gives back to the softball community by coaching his son’s team, and he’ll soon be helping kids learn the game at his son’s school. He also encourages his teammates to support younger teams and get to their games as often as possible.

“We supported the younger teams throughout the season, showing up in the mornings to watch the Under 7s kids and other grades. I think this was enough to spark the guys to realise that they’re in the top team in the association and they’ve got a certain role to play.” he says.

“We want to inspire these kids to be Major League players one day.”

After 25 years, winning the Calder Mackay Shield was a major event for the Panthers.

“I’ve won plenty of competitions in my time, but this was something different,” says Steve.

Steve Willis pitches at the final between the Panthers and Demons.

The team celebrated into the night and went back to the pitch the next day to support the Southland Evergreen Women’s

Team, who also won their final.

Alongside other members of his team, Steve has put more attention into helping the team and their development. He credits the team’s success last season to a higher number of quality trainings and a newfound sense of unity on the field.

“We’ve had the same players for four or five years – some longer – and it’s just starting to click and everything’s starting to work. Credit goes to the whole team for this year’s all-round victory” he says.

Steve acknowledges that fewer people are playing softball these days, but he remains optimistic. He believes the new stadium and upcoming national tournaments in Invercargill will reignite interest in the sport, particularly among younger players.

Despite toying with the idea of retirement, Steve says he isn’t ready to hang up the glove just yet.

“It’s a sport I’m going to find it hard to retire from.”

Crest Commercial Cleaning Ltd

P O Box 740
Dunedin 9054
New Zealand
Telephone: +64-3-477 1126


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