Hancock Brothers captain Nathan Smith, wearing his familiar headgear, tackles a Toowoomba opponent during the annual Combined Competition series.
Hancock Brothers captain Nathan Smith, wearing his familiar headgear, tackles a Toowoomba opponent during the annual Combined Competition series. Nev Madsen

Qld opportunity motivates Ipswich sportsman

WITH skill and speed to burn, Nathan Smith was always destined to play for Queensland.

But after Smith was overlooked during his junior career, it was selectors for Queensland's premier hockey team who finally recognised his immense ability.

The Hancock Brothers captain was called into the Blades senior squad after the recent Super League championships where he helped the South West Lumberjacks make the final.

Smith, who turns 22 in August, hopes to further his Queensland open team prospects after a trial game against a state under 21 side this week.

"It's good. I'm keen for the opportunity,'' Smith said.

"I'm really going to commit 100 percent and really give it a crack.''

He's been given added optimism knowing his good friend and former Hancocks teammate Cade Banditt has already represented Queensland at national league level.

"I've never made a Queensland team before so to make the Blades is really an honour,'' he said.

The Ipswich sportsman thought Hancocks and Queensland Scorchers squad representative Layla Eleison was joking when she rang Smith with news he'd broken into his first Blades squad.

Another Ipswich product Jarrod Brown is also in the latest Queensland squad preparing for the next national league series in October.

"Hopefully I can push in (to the final team) but we'll see what happens,'' Smith said, currently training with the Blades squad.

"It's tough but I love good, hard training sessions.''

He was rewarded for his efforts representing South West Queensland and Kedron Wavell.

"This is the first year I made my debut in Div 1 in Brisbane and I've really pushed hard this year and I've really started to show my potential and my pace,'' he said.

Dual-registered Smith continues to help Hancocks whenever he can in the Ipswich competition, like he did in Saturday night's A-Grade mid-season final.

Smith missed the closing stages of the final after receiving back-to-back yellow cards for his passionate style of play.

However, he was proud how Hancocks held out the dangerous Norths attack to win the tight tussle 1-0 at the Ipswich Hockey Complex.

Defending premiers Hancocks fielded a near full- strength side and threatened on many occasions.

However, the only goal came in the 26th minute when Hancocks newcomer Jackson Willie slammed in a penalty corner. Willie also plays with Smith at Kedron Wavell.

Norths lost their regular A-Grade goalkeeper Cian McLaughlin 12 minutes before halftime.

After clearly being ill, McLaughlin was given consent by the umpire to leave the field.

 

Norths A Grade hockey player Zac Profke takes on the Hancocks defence.
SPEED RIVALS: Norths A-Grade player Zac Profke is pursued by Nathan Smith. Carl Groenewald

Multi-talented Zac Profke filled in guarding the net while Norths' A2 keeper Shane Petersen hurriedly kitted up to fulfil the important role.

Coming on seconds before halftime, Petersen did a great job under the circumstances, repelling the dangerous Hancocks attack.

Norths had one final chance to equalize after the hooter. However, their last-gasp penalty corner missed the target.

"It's always a real tough game against Norths,'' Smith said, noting how they are progressing well with a lot of new players.

"They are competing a lot better than what everyone has expected them to. And people like Zac Profke and Dean Jeffrey and Jeremy Dalais are really performing.

"Zac Profke is absolutely killing it and he's really shown his potential and I'm really proud of him because I've seen him come up through the ranks.''

Smith hoped Profke could join him in the Blades squad in the future.

However, keen to play for Hancocks despite his added Brisbane commitments, Smith was also encouraged how his Ipswich club team was progressing this year.

"We're starting to perform a lot better than what we should have at the start of the year,'' he said.

"But it just comes down to really starting to use the ball and playing the way we should be. We've got a solid 16 . . . from our bench to our starting team, we've got no difference.''

Heading the right direction

EVERYONE who watches Ipswich speedster Nathan Smith play would instantly recognise him with his yellow headgear.

He dons the protective helmet out of necessity.

"I've been wearing the headgear ever since I was eight or seven,'' Smith said. "I have got a head injury so I can't play without it.''

However, as long as he does the right thing, former Bremer State High School student Smith can continue chasing his representative dreams.

As he challenges to secure a spot in the Queensland Blades team, Smith was also appreciative of his opportunity in the recent Super League championships. The South West Lumberjacks silenced some doubters by making the final.

The Leichhardt computer programmer praised Lumberjacks coach Ken McCoombes for showing faith in so many talent-rich young players.

"A lot respect to Kennie McCoombes because I know he got slammed in the selections because he picked people that a lot of people wouldn't have picked,'' Smith said.

"But I think it really worked for him. We had a really young side and we just gelled together well. Craig Smith (from Toowoomba) led us and he's got a lot of experience.''