HIGHER-LEVEL FOCUS: Hancock Brothers and Queensland Scorchers player Layla Eleison.
HIGHER-LEVEL FOCUS: Hancock Brothers and Queensland Scorchers player Layla Eleison. Rob Williams

Ipswich talent nervous but excited about national bid

PREPARING to make her Australian Hockey League (AHL) debut, Ipswich talent Layla Eleison is ready to go having played in two recent grand finals.

However, the Queensland Scorchers rookie was understandably eager to get on the field when the team flies to Sydney tomorrow before playing NSW in Saturday's series-opener.

"There's no doubt that I'm really nervous about it but I'm just keen to get out there and play,'' Eleison said.

Eleison, 20, has been in Queensland under-18 and under-21 squads for the past few years.

But after her commitment and consistent efforts in the Brisbane competition, she was brought into the Scorchers senior squad to play in this year's revamped AHL format.

"I got the call-up and I've just been working really, really, hard,'' the former St Mary's College student said, mostly concentrating on her hockey.

"After all that lead-up stuff (junior state squads) I was a bit more keen this year.

"My goal was to train hard and make the (Scorchers) squad really.''

She expects to play striker this weekend, having fulfilled a similar role and been a regular midfielder for Queensland under-21 teams.

Eleison heads to Sydney with the latest Scorchers team having played in two grand finals on the same day recently.

After representing Easts-Carina in the Brisbane competition decider, she raced back to Ipswich to play for Hancock Brothers in the Ipswich grand final.

Although both teams lost, Ipswich-bred Eleison gained some consolation being part of two grand finals for the first time. "Every year, I'm just hoping to make one (final) a year but to make two was even better,'' she said.

The skilful player of the future said extended game time in Brisbane's top competition while regularly lining up for Hancocks in Ipswich was helping her representative development.

"To have two games of hockey a weekend with different clubs has made me a better player this year,'' she said.

The Brisbane competition offered vital experience for an exciting Ipswich prospect.

"It's a completely different game from Ipswich,'' she said.

"The intensity is just way higher.''

Eleison will be joined in the Scorchers team by another Hancock Brothers product and silver medal-winning Commonwealth Games midfielder Jordyn Holzberger.

A third Hancocks player, goalkeeper Cade Banditt, will play for the Queensland Blades squad when he returns from representing the Australian under-21 Burras team at the Sultan of Johor Cup series in Malaysia this week.

Eleison and Holzberger are in the squad of 14 playing on Saturday.

Eleison enjoys working with former Olympic silver medal-winning player Lee Bodimeade.

"He's a fantastic coach,'' she said. "I've been looking forward, in my first team, being coached by him.''

She's also received extra help from former Ipswich regional coaching director Neil Shearer and has been training with senior Scorchers player Jodie Kenny.

Eleison is excited about playing at a higher level having represented the South West Lumberjills in recent Super League championships.

The Queensland Scorchers team won the silver medal after a penalty shoot-out loss to Victoria at last year's AHL championships in Perth.

"I've known those girls for a while but never been in the same team as them,'' she said.

"I'm looking forward to gelling with some of the girls from Perth (last year's Scorchers team) and from the Hockeyroos.''

New format

The 2018 Australian Hockey League season starts this weekend in two pools, under a new home and away format throughout Australia.

The Queensland men's and women's sides are in Pool B with Canberra, Tasmania and Saturday's opponents NSW.

The Queensland round against Tasmania is being played on October 20 in Brisbane.

The AHL finals are being played at the Gold Coast Hockey Centre, from October 25-28. That is the venue used for the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

The Queensland Scorchers and Blades both finished runners-up in last year's AHL championships in Perth.