Kookaburras star Aran Zalewski says wins have begun to mean a lot more to him in the latter stages of his career as he prepares to represent the Perth Thundersticks at the upcoming Hockey One.
Zalewski has one of the most decorated resumes in world hockey and will be a vital part of the Thundersticks team who are looking to bring home their first national title in over a decade.
The Margaret River product has done almost all there is to do in the game of hockey, having co-captained the Kookaburras to a recent gold medal at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games – his third gold at the tournament – and silver at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The 31-year-old was also part of the Thundersticks’ last national title in 2011 where they beat the then NSW Waratahs 4-3.
Zalewski said he has noticed wins have begun to mean more to him of late and that he was eager to taste victory at Australia’s premier hockey tournament.
“I think to win Hockey One would mean a lot more to me now than it would have earlier in my career,” he said.
“When you first start playing you are just going out there to have fun and you don’t really think about it too much.
“As I am getting older I am finding the wins are meaning a lot more to me and I want to win more.”
Zalewski was born in Margaret River and is one of a number of regional stars representing the Thundersticks this year, including fellow Kookaburra Jake Harvie and Hockeyroo Penny Squibb.
The Reds Hockey Club premiership player said he is always humbled to represent where he came from.
“Being a WA boy I always want to do the State proud like anyone from here,” Zalewski said.
“To be able to play for the Thundersticks is always an honour for me and something I take a lot of pride in.
“Coming and playing with some of the State’s best players is something really exciting, and I hope I can help us get some more success this year.”
The World Cup winner said he hoped the WA fan base would get behind the team after a two-year absence from Hockey One action at the Perth Hockey Stadium.
“To play in front of a packed crowd is always something we look forward to,” he said.
“To be in Perth and representing the State is really exciting for the group and we hope the WA hockey community gets behind us.
“We really want to put on a show and put together some good performances for the people of WA.
“It was obviously unfortunate to have Hockey One cancelled for a couple of years after just one tournament but I think this year will be great.
“The home and away nature means everyone across the country gets the chance to see some top-quality hockey which will be great.”
Zalewski said there were bragging rights up for grabs in the national program upon the squad members’ return from Hockey One.
Whilst Zalewski considers his fellow Kookaburras some of his closest friends, he admits there will be no holding back after the first pushback.
“It is weird because we are obviously really close,” he said.
“There isn’t too much said in the lead-up, but sometimes after a tournament like this, there can be a little bit of banter at training, the same as with our club games.
“Whilst we are friends, we are all naturally competitive people and that’s how we have got to where we are.
“Once I cross that line I want to win and play to the best of my abilities, no matter who I am playing against.
“We have just started travelling again with the Kookaburras, so to have this on the calendar again is awesome and a step in the right direction for hockey to return to crowds across Australia.”
The Perth Thundersticks need your support this Sultana Bran Hockey One League season, with our first double header to be played at Perth Hockey Stadium at Curtin University on Saturday 1 October. Show your support by purchasing a membership, securing your tickets or through our Perth Thundersticks Player Partnership Program. We want all of WA behind our elite-level men’s and women’s teams!