Why Ipswich talent is embracing elite opportunity
HAVING trained virtually full-time at elite level all year, Cade Banditt was ready for the next stage of his promising hockey career.
The rapidly rising Ipswich goalkeeper has received it.
Banditt has been selected to represent the Queensland Blades for the first time at the Australian Hockey League championships in Perth later this month.
The Kholo-based sportsman had already been recognised in the Australian Futures squad and shared in the success of the Queensland under 21 team which came second at this year's national titles.
However, earning a call-up to the Blades is a pivotal moment for any hockey player, let alone in a year when all the Australian players are available and with the 2018 Commonwealth Games just months away.
"The year to make it will be this year,'' said Banditt, who turns 19 next month.
"I've been training as hard as I ever have.''
That includes three sessions a week with the Blades, Queensland under 21s and state high performance squad. He also does early Saturday morning training and two sessions a week in the gym.
The former St Edmund's College student said receiving the call from Blades head coach and former international great Matt Wells was just what he was waiting for.
He's excited about making his debut in the state senior side.
"We've got a full-strength team going away so there's no excuses this year,'' he said.
"Over the last 10 years, the Blades have had a great reputation.''
The Ipswich achiever is one of two goalkeepers in the current Blades squad, along with Matt Finn.
When asked who is helping him the most, Banditt answered: "Just training with all the boys and especially Matt Wells. He's been my coach for the high performance squad, the under 21s and the Blades.
"He's been the one pretty much there the whole run.''
Banditt is heading to Perth for the first time for the championships from September 28-October 8.
Ipswich-bred international player Jordyn Holzberger is playing for the Queensland Scorchers team in the Women's AHL tournament.
Another Ipswich teenager Layla Eleison will be representing Tasmania at the same championships having also impressed at Queensland under 21 and under 18 level in recent months.
Banditt, Holzberger and Eleison will play against teams from Australia's other states and territories, as well as sides from India and New Zealand who have been invited to take part in the two-week tournament.
The Scorchers are looking to defend their title after taking out the AHL Championship in 2015 and 2016.
The Blades finished fifth in 2016 after winning the title in 2015.
For Banditt, the AHL opportunity is important at a crucial stage of his hockey career.
His previous major tournament was representing the Australian Futures squad in Tri-series against Japan and New Zealand last year. The Australian under 21 nationals were this year in Wollongong, setting the foundation for his promotion to the Blades' open team.
"I've decided not to go overseas this year just to concentrate on this,'' he said.
His training program includes regular sessions at the QAS at Mt Gravatt and the State Hockey Centre.
Banditt is enjoying the strength and conditioning side of his sport.
"I'm finding it great,'' he said. "Now, I've gotten more familiar with all the gym side of it . . . getting more used to being in that kind of environment.''
Banditt is also maintaining his balanced approach by studying a Bachelor of Law Degree at USQ. He's in his first year studying while pursuing his higher hockey ambitions.
Kholo talent displays team spirit by 'giving back'
ALTHOUGH he only played one game for Ipswich A Grade champions Hancocks this season, Cade Banditt felt every bit a part of the squad.
"I always love seeing my old club get up,'' the recently selected Queensland Blades goalkeeper said.
Banditt started his career with Hancocks, sharing in the A Grade team's 2015 premiership success, which ended a 28-year drought.
He also typified the bond between Ipswich goalkeepers, having a strong relationship with another representative teenager Kyah Andrew-Sharrad. "Especially around Ipswich, there's never a grudge,'' Banditt said. "It doesn't matter what team you are on, everyone is friendly off the field.''
Banditt has been running goalkeeping clinics for Ipswich Hockey, Brisbane Hockey and Hockey Queensland. Over the past two years, he's been helping out kids aged 8-15 at various centres and state championships. "I like the fact it's giving back . . . teaching . . . because I never had goalkeeping clinics and coaching when I was growing up as a keeper,'' he said.