Elite goals: Coaching players to be professional athletes
LEARNING each week with her players, new Brisbane Blaze coach Nikki Taylor is pleased to have three Ipswich representatives in this year's Hockey One League squad.
Hancock Brothers midfield/attacking duo Layla Eleison and Jordyn Holzberger have played in all three matches this season, making valuable contributions in the newly-named Blaze franchise.
Developing goalkeeper Emily Witheyman-Crump is yet to line up for the Blaze, gaining important experience training alongside more seasoned Queensland players.
Preparing for this weekend's home matches against Tasmania on Friday night and Perth on Sunday, Taylor said Eleison was one of the rapidly emerging talents in her side.
"She has done very well. She's really standing up and showing some of that really good skill that she's got,'' Taylor said.
"She's utilising that at that higher level, which is really good to see.''
Having worked previously with Eleison in Queensland under-21 sides, Taylor sees a big future for the Ipswich midfielder.
"She has always been a very good player but just her level of her skill has improved out of sight since being in 21s.
"I'm really excited about her progression at the moment and how she's going.''
Former Hockeyroos regular Holzberger has gone about her business with the Blaze team as she always does.
"Her experience is invaluable too, on and off the field,'' Taylor said.
"We've got a fairly young group at the moment without the bulk of the Hockeyroos so Jordy is showing that leadership.
"Not only in her skill level but what she is offering off the field is also very good for the team.''
Taylor was a Queensland Scorchers player for 13 years. She has since gained considerable state coaching experience.
She said the inaugural Hockey One League continued to challenge the players and coaches, especially with national representatives coming and going due to their demands.
"It's been a whirlwind,'' the primary school PE teacher said.
"The girls probably feel like professional athletes - to fly in to a centre and play and then fly home.
"We've been really happy with the whole format of it.
"It's different but as we are learning on the way, we are learning different things about the travel and the recovery and all that sort of part of it as well.
"There's learnings that we take from each week and we improve each week as we go along, dealing with the travel and that sort of thing.''
As a stalwart of Brisbane and Queensland hockey, Taylor was appointed Blaze head coach after two years in the same role with the state under-21 side. She also previously worked with the Scorchers in the former Australian Hockey League competition.
As a player, Taylor had links to Ipswich's former state and international representatives Tammy Cole and Anne-Marie Callow.
The latest side continues Queensland's fine record of nurturing players of the future.
"We're trying to develop these players to be able to think for themselves as well,'' the head coach said.
"Take on board what the coach is saying but they need to be able to change and adapt to things on the field as well. When it's not quite going right, they need to have that background knowledge and smarts about tweaking things. Not having to wait until quarter-time to change it.''
The current Blaze team is captained by Jodie Kenny with Ash Fey as her assistant.
With one win and two narrow losses from Blaze's first three games, Taylor was optimistic about the remaining Hockey One League rounds.
"We're going in the right direction now,'' she said.
Hockey One League round at the State Hockey Centre (Colmslie): Friday - Brisbane Blaze v Tassie Tigers. Women's game at 6pm with men's clash at 7.30pm.
Sunday: Brisbane Blaze v Perth Thundersticks. Women's game at 1pm with men's match at 2.30pm.