Australian flavour in Indian curry: The influx of Aussies in the Dabang Mumbai squad
After India, Australia has been, arguably, the most successful side in world hockey. They have won 9 Olympic medals including 1 gold and 3 silver medals while lifting the World Cup thrice. The Kookaburras are also the most successful side in the Champions Trophy, winning it a record 13 times and finishing at the top position in each of the Commonwealth Games since hockey was introduced back in 1998. Currently, they are ranked No. 1 in the world and the squad is considered as the most talented bunch on the planet.
So, it was no surprise to see that the most foreigners participating in the Coal India Ltd Hockey India League are from Down Under. A total of 24 Australians will be participating in the world's biggest hockey league, out of which 4 will be representing Dabang Mumbai.
The Alphas' 20-man squad was given a boost when it was announced that the famed Jay Stacy will be the head coach of the team. He is one of 3 Australian coaches heading their sides at the HIL. An established international, Stacy made 319 appearances for his country – the second highest ever for the Kookaburras. He has won 3 Olympic medals – 1 silver and 2 bronze – with Australia.
On the field, Jeremy Hayward, Matthew Swann, Dylan Wotherspoon and Andrew Philpott will be the Australians representing the Alphas. Defenders Swann, Hayward and Philpott will use their national team camaraderie to form a solid wall at the back for the Alphas.
22-year-old Hayward would be no stranger to the Mumbai-based franchise as he was one of only 3 players retained by the team for the 2016 season. The defender, who is equally adept at playing up front if the team requires, has made 45 appearances for the national side, scoring 17 goals. His talent was first recognised at the 2014 World Cup when he was named the best Young Player of the Tournament.
Matthew Swann, 26, has been tasked with the captaincy of the young Dabang Mumbai side after an unfortunate injury to Nikkin Thimmaiah. His 129 caps for the national team should hold him in good stead as he gets ready to make his third appearance at the HIL. He was conferred with the world's best Young Player of the Year award back in 2011, a year where he also featured in the FIH World All Stars Team.
Dr. Andrew Philpott is an Australian international who is adept at both studies and sports. Having got his medical license in 2013, the defender made his debut the following year and till now has bagged 1 goal in 21 caps for his country. The 25-year-old was not part of the initial squad, but got a lucky break when he was picked to replace the injured Shea McAleese. Philpott was part of the gold winning 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2014 Sultan Azlan Shah Australian team.
Dylan Wotherspoon is yet another emerging Australian taking his baby steps on the international stage. At just 22, he has already scored 9 goals for his country in 24 caps, 2 years after making his debut. He replaced Kieran Govers in the Dabang Mumbai squad after his Australian counterpart suffered a shoulder injury in the run-up to the tournament.
With 4 Australians in the playing squad, Dabang Mumbai has a solid influence from Down Under. These 4 will see a familiar face coaching the team, in the form of fellow countryman Jay Stacy. The Australian influx in Dabang Mumbai, is sure to provide a boost to Hockey India League's Mumbai-based franchise.