Aran Zalewski has been named Australia's captain for the 2024 season, including the Olympics. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS
  • field Hockey

250-cap Zalewski to be Kookaburras’ Olympic captain

Ian Chadband April 4, 2024

Aran Zalewski has urged his Kookaburras’ team to enjoy the time of their lives after being named the man to lead them into battle at the Olympic hockey tournament.

The 33-year-old was left honoured at being appointed the team’s sole captain for the 2024 season as they seek to go one better in Paris than in Tokyo 2021 where Zalewski was in the side that ended up with silver.

The announcement was made as the Kookaburras build up for the Perth International Festival of Hockey, with home-grown Zalewski celebrating his appointment by leading the team against India in his 250th appearance for Australia on Saturday.

“I obviously love the Kookaburras, it’s such a big part of my life, all of our lives, so I really want to enjoy this year. I think we all want to give it hell,” Zalewski told his teammates on Wednesday after being unveiled, to much applause, as the new skipper by coach Colin Batch. 

 Zalewski will be making his 250th appearance in the green and gold of Australia. Image by AP PHOTO 

And Margaret River’s Zalewski reckoned he would be taking a leaf out of Australian cricket captain Pat Cummins’ book as he promised to savour the whole experience.

“I was listening to something that Pat said the other day, talking about travelling away, spending lots of time out on the pitch, and being away from family, and a lot of us are doing that now,” Zalewski told his colleagues.

“And if you’re going to do that, why not make it the best time of your life? So that’s what I want to do with this group. Let’s have a good year – and let’s make it the best time of our lives.”

Previously, the Kookaburras had co-captains but Batch revealed the leadership group had decided there should be just be one skipper this year in a campaign which has begun brilliantly with seven wins in eight Pro League fixtures.

The honour has fallen to Zalewski, popularly known as ‘Moose’, who began his stellar international career by scoring in a 5-0 win over India nearly 13 years ago as a 20-year-old.

“It’s very exciting playing 250 games for Australia and it’s moments like these you reflect on your career and think about all of the good things and moments you’ve had over time,” said Zalewski, the FIH Pro League’s best player in 2019 who’s also won three Commonwealth golds and played at three Olympics.

“What comes to mind is just how great the journey’s been, how many different people I’ve met, the friends I’ve met and the family that come along for the ride.’

Explaining why Zalewski, previously a co-captain, got the big job, Batch explained: ‘”Aran has a calming influence on the group, a good awareness of where we’re at and he’s a good on-field leader because his mindset is stable. You know he doesn’t get highly emotional.

“He’s good off the field as well, he’s a connecting person who knows how to connect with people. Once you have that connection you can have tricky conversations.”

There’ll be a special presentation to Zalewski to mark his landmark appearance after Saturday’s game, with the new skipper smiling: “I’m really looking forward to representing my family, my town, my river, my state and obviously Australia as well.”