Sam Liles’ hockey career is really starting to bloom.
The Tamworth product recently made his AHL debut for the Waratahs and is this week winging his way to India to play for the Australian U21s in the hockey Junior World Cup.
It will be his final tournament at age level, and one that could lead to even bigger and brighter things with the Australian squads set to be named afterwards.
“I suppose it’s a good platform that if you perform well it’s set up well to push into the Australian program,” Liles said.
That is the ultimate goal. The immediate is helping the Burras achieve Junior World Cup success.
They begin their campaign against Korea on December 9 and will also face Argentina and Austria during the pool stages.
Junior World Cup selection comes at the tail of big and exciting 12 months for the former Services Workies and Oxley star, starting back in January with the Oceania Qualifiers for the India tournament.
Then he had the U21 Nationals, and in October he got his first taste of the AHL after being on the cusp of the squad last year.
“That was an awesome experience,” he said.
“I probably didn’t get heaps of game time but that was expected being one of the younger guys. (But) It was awesome to play with some of those older guys.”
Pretty much as soon as that was over he was off to Malaysia where he helped the Burras win the Sultan of Johor Cup for the first time.
The tournament formed a key part of the Burras Junior World Cup preparations and saw the Aussies prevail 3-1 over Pakistan.
It was Liles’ second time playing at the Johor Cup, which this year formed a big part of the selection process for the side to travel to Lucknow.
“They named the team two days after we got back,” Liles said.
He was pretty happy with how he played but still had a nervous couple of days, waiting.
The Junior World Cup was a big focus for Liles, who is juggling his hockey commitments with studying an engineering and commerce degree.
“It’s probably been at least a couple of years of hard work, probably from the 21s Nationals last year,” he said.
“I’m glad it’s all come off.”