Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Paris Olympics Hockey: Eddie Ockenden replaced as Australia captain

Australia’s most-capped played Eddie Ockenden has been replaced as sole captain by Aran Zalewski ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.

After a coaching staff decision, Zalewski is preparing to lead out for the 250th time for Australia this weekend, almost 13 years after he played his first game as a 20 year old, just an hour from his home in Bunbury.

Now, two hours up the road at Perth Hockey Stadium, Zalewski will be hoping this special milestone has a similar tale to tell. His 250th cap, more than a decade on, once again against India but this time as captain at the Perth International Festival of Hockey.

“It’s very exciting playing 250 games for Australia and I think 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,” he said.

Zalewski admits much has changed since that first match, as he reflects on moments of celebration like being named the FIH Pro League’s best player in 2019 when Australia won the first edition, three Commonwealth Games gold medals and being a three-time Olympian and Olympic silver medallist.

“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.

“I do remember the early stages and I think about all of the growth that I’ve had and a lot of the setbacks as well which make you stronger, make you more resilient and a lot of critical conversations with coaches too.

They include legends and leaders of the game Ric Charlesworth, Paul Gaudoin, Graeme Reid and current Kookaburras head coach Colin Batch, just to name a few on his journey who he says has made him a better player.

“Aran has a calming influence on the group, he’s got 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,” Batch said after the announcement.

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

That stable mindset is also a reflection of how Aran Zalewski plans to approach a big week ahead.

“I won’t think about it too much before the match,” he concedes. 

“I think the one thing I am really proud of is the belief that you have to have in yourself that you can do it and that you belong here on this stage, so to play 250 games, you know hopefully I have taught that to myself,” Zalewski said.

Total Hockey

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