by David Lems
HAVING come within a whisker of a gold medal for Queensland, Cade Banditt is looking even higher.
He's aiming to make the Australian junior squad after enjoying the valuable cut-throat experience at his first Australian Hockey League championships.
The Kholo-based goalkeeper was part of the Queensland Blades team which won the silver medal in Perth last weekend after losing a nailbiting battle to the Victorian Vikings.
Victoria secured the title 3-0 in shootouts after the teams were deadlocked 1-1.
After playing during regular time in the final, Banditt was replaced for the shootouts by Queensland's other goalkeeper Matthew Finn.
Being a rookie at AHL level, Banditt accepted his coach's decision.
"The reason behind that is he (Finn) has been training in that field,'' Banditt said.
"Shootouts are completely different to on-field situations. So he, in that team, had more experience in terms of training with shootouts.
"I was just more of the on-field goalkeeper.''
The Ipswich teenager said such experiences were part of learning in elite teams like the Blades. That's why he enjoyed the high quality tournament so much.
"I played pretty much nearly every game except for the first one,'' Banditt, 19, said.
"For my first AHL, I'm extremely happy with my own personal performance. But I'm also really happy with how I bonded with the team.
"It was a bit disappointing that we came second but you can't be too disappointed when you're the second best team in Australia.''
The Ipswich-bred sportsman rated Queensland's 4-2 semi-final win over NSW the Blades' best game.
Banditt said playing a whole tournament with international representatives like player of the tournament Mark Knowles, Matthew Swann and Daniel Beale was hugely beneficial.
"They are elite athletes playing in the Australian Kookaburras,'' the former St Edmund's College student said.
"It was great to be part of the team success really.''
The Queensland Blades also received the Play the Whistle award for sportsmanship throughout the tournament.
Being at the pinnacle of hockey playing in a national league grand final gave Banditt plenty to think about in his development.
"It's not every day that a player of my age gets to play in such a huge and important game such as that,'' he said.
"That's what you play hockey for. But it's not all about winning. It's more about growing and learning.
"I know next time what to expect and how I can improve.''
Banditt said he received positive feedback about his performances in Perth.
"It's a massive boost in confidence,'' he said. "But there's still plenty to improve on.''
After enjoying a week of downtime, Banditt will continue his gym training and skill development until the end of the year.
His next major tournament will be the Australian under 21 championships in March.
DURING a tournament offering so much, Cade Banditt appreciated the bonus of playing against teams from India and New Zealand. The Queensland Blades won those matches 4-0 and 6-1 respectively in Perth.
"It was a really good experience playing against different countries because they play a completely different structure and style to what us Australians play,'' he said. "So it's good to be exposed to that kind of diversity.''
He savoured the pace and skill. "It's so cut-throat at this level of hockey,'' Banditt said. "One mistake on the field can cost you a game.''