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Kookaburras Captain Aran Zalewski on the cusp of fairytale full-circle 250th celebration

Published Wed 03 Apr 2024

Margaret River born Aran Zalewski is having a week to remember in what has already been a lengthy decorated hockey career.

On the cusp of a dream milestone, the newly-minted Kookaburras captain is preparing to run out for the 250th time for Australia, almost 13 years after he played his first game as a 20 year old, just an hour from his home in Bunbury.

It was a debut to remember too, as he scored a goal in the 57th minute in front of family and friends, while the Kookaburras went on to beat India 5-0. 

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.

Get your tickets to watch Aran bring up 250 here!

"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."

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.

Earlier today, Batch reaffirmed just how much Zalewski has developed to become a true leader in his own right. Cementing his role as a senior team member, and recent co-captain, by naming him the sole captain of 2024.

"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.

"I'm really looking forward to representing my family, my town, my river, my state and obviously Australia as well."

There will be a formal presentation to celebrate Aran's 250th cap at the conclusion of this Saturday's match against India.