Country honour worth all hard work: Bayliss
HAVING returned in a confident mood from Geraldton, Queensland Country representative Steve Bayliss recommended the experience to other hockey players on the fringe of higher honours.
"It's a few mates, good times, see a bit of the countryside and play really good quality hockey," Bayliss said.
"The tournament was set up so that you can get out and have a good time as well but it's serious hockey."
With next year's Australian Country titles in August in Toowoomba, Bayliss rated it an opportunity worth stepping up for.
"The quality of the tournament is just interchange, interchange, interchange," he said, having mainly played in the midfield for Queensland.
"You run on for about 10 minutes and off for five, on for 10, off for five and everybody is good enough to play in any position.
"It's probably another step up from Premier League. You play against guys that play in the national league and really good quality players.
"You have to rise to the occasion."
Bayliss showed how to do that in his first A-grade game back on Saturday night. He scored a handy double in Easts' 7-1 victory over Wests.
Having secured the minor premiership, the Tigers turned on a powerhouse display of firepower with five different players scoring.
"It's all starting to click together," said Bayliss, 31.
"I saw all the reports while I was away. You struggle for a little bit of touch and guys are finding now we are linking up really really well at the right time of the year.
"Hopefully we can keep it going."
After Tim Woodford netted the first of his two field goals in the sixth minute, it was one-way traffic.
Chris Mantell, Paul Malcolm and Tom Miller joined Woodford and Bayliss on the scorer's list, warning other teams how dangerous they can be from all parts of the field.
"We're in a good spot but there's always room for improvement," Bayliss said.
"We're getting to the business end of the year and one-percenters win games.
"You can have the best night and even good goals won't go in and the other team goes the other way and flicks one in."
In the other A-grade men's encounter, Norths returned to form with a 6-2 win over out-of-sorts Hancocks.
In the women's top grade, leaders Swifts overcame Norths 5-0, Hancocks held out Thistles 2-1 and Bellbowrie moved off the bottom of the table with a 1-0 win over fourth-placed Wests.
In Western Australia, Bayliss joined Ipswich teammates Mark Pocock, Dean Jeffrey, David Llewelyn and Peter Mitchell in the Queensland team that finished third.
Jeffrey and Hancocks captain Sara Rogers retained their places in the Australian Country sides touring New Zealand next year.
State of Play
A Grade men: Easts 7 (S Bayliss 2, T Woodford 2, C Mantell, T Miller, P Malcolm) d Wests 1 (G Clutton); Norths 6 (A O'Beirne 3, N Maddocks 2, M Pocock) d Hancock Brothers 2 (P Mitchell 2). Latest points (after 19 games): Easts 39, Norths 30, Hancocks 19, Wests 18.
A Grade women: Bellbowrie 1 (D Coombes) d Wests 0; Swifts 5 (A Callow 2, E Floyd-Smith, P Barnsley, K Bennett) d Norths 0; Hancock Brothers 2 (C Sippel, Elyse Smolenski) d Thistles 1 (J Prasser). Latest points (after 19 games): Swifts 54, Hancocks 35, Norths 26, Wests 25, Bellbowrie 17, Thistles 16.
Ipswich's under-18 girls hockey team named for next month's state titles in Cairns: Chloe Wilks (GK), Miranda McNamara, Jessica Fox, Yasmin Leeder, Sophie Stenner, Shannon Conway, Natalie Davison, Emma Johnson, McKenna Evans-Doherty, Brooke Pavitt, Grace Collins, Jaimee Prasser, Ashleigh Wall, Zoe Fox, Crystal Brown, Rhiannon Sue. Shadows: Claire Thomson, Kaitlin Martin, Olivia Finn. Coach: Leonie Young. Manager: Sharon Fox.