By Shane Jones
“You’ve just got to push for the team and do it for everyone else.”
Bundaberg’s Sam Aitkenhead said he wasn’t thinking about anything but his team as he fought through the pain barrier at the recent state titles in under-18 hockey.
He didn’t want to let the team down.
Aitkenhead was one of the players of the tournament, guiding Bundaberg to second in Division 2, behind the Sunshine Coast.
Bundaberg was one position away from being promoted to the top tier, which would have put the team up against the best the state has to offer in hockey.
Aitkenhead led from the front in attack, scoring 10 goals and being the highest scorer in Division 2.
The Shalom College student achieved the feat after injuring his ankle in the early stages of the event.
“Considering the first couple of game I acquired my ankle injury, I think I performed as well as I could have,” he said.
“I rolled it and the tendons were inflamed so they were causing grief when I moved and stuff.
“So I heavily strapped it and iced it every night.
“And kept it warm for when I played and just pushed through the pain barrier.”
He played multiple games with the injury but at no stage did he quit.
“They have trust in me to perform at my best so I just got to keep trying until I can’t anymore,” he said.
The team was disappointed not to finish on top. The difference was one draw over one win as Bundaberg got two wins and three draws and the Sunshine Coast got three wins and two draws.
“We didn’t lose the whole carnival but there were a couple of games we drew instead of won,” Aitkenhead said.
The focus now is on getting his ankle better and pursuing club glory for The Waves Cities in the local competition.
But next year, because of his performances at the state titles, he will get the opportunity to head into camp to be selected for Queensland.
He has been selected alongside his teammate at the championships, Isaac Wales.
“In February next year there is a squad and we all go and they divide us into four teams that play each other,” Aitkenhead said.
“They then pick one team from that.”
Wales and Aitkenhead both get along well, even though most Saturdays they play against each other at Hinkler Park.
“We combine really well and we play down in Brisbane every Friday night in the same team,” Aitkenhead said.
The goal now is to hopefully represent Queensland at the national titles.
Aitkenhead, along with plenty of other juniors, has missed out on chances to represent his state due to Covid restrictions.
“There’s been a lot of opportunities that would have come out of it,” he said.
“In the 16 school sports teams you get to play for Queensland and then Australia and that is the first time it has happened in school sports.
“But due to the past two years I haven’t been able to do it and been picked in the merit team.”
The good news for Aitkenhead is that he will have a couple of years to represent Queensland in under-18s, given he is 15 turning 16 later this year.