Australian international Matthew Swann was given the reins of the Dabang Mumbai Hockey Club at the start of the Coal India Hockey India League after then skipper Nikkin Thimmaiah suffered an unfortunate injury that ruled him out of the tournament. His appointment as the skipper of the newly formed Dabang Mumbai didn’t come as a surprise following Swann’s exploits with the Kookaburras.
The 26-year-old’s first challenge was to get his new-look side to work as a well-oiled unit in a limited amount of time. The Alphas had retained just 3 members of their squad for this year’s edition of the Hockey India League while buying 17 new players in the auction.
Swann, a defender by trade, repositioned himself in midfield to control the game, a testament to his versatility and maturity. Throughout the campaign, Swann played in the heart of the Alphas’ midfield and controlled the game, in a similar manner to what Sardar Singh does for the Indian national team.
The 26-year-old defender turned midfielder linked up well with the forward line comprising of German international Florian Fuchs, Swede Johan Björkman and youngsters Gurjant Singh and Affan Yousuf, providing them with the much-needed support. He worked his socks off, running like the famed Duracell bunny and it often appeared as if there were two Swann's due to the inhuman effort he put out.
Swann's most impressive contribution came in the defensive side of the game. He was instrumental in blunting down the opposition attacks on a regular basis giving his defensive line the ultimate protection. The Australian showed his leadership and defensive ability in the Alphas' second win of the tournament, a 2-1 win away to Uttar Pradesh Wizards.
After the first quarter, Swann's team were leading 2-1 in Lucknow. The Alphas defended with aplomb for the remaining 3 quarters to grind out an important win against the Wizards. The 26-year-old led his men like a sergeant and ensured they carried out every order to perfection, which laid the foundations for their second successive win.
On the whole, it has proved to be an exceptional decision by the Alphas’ management to let Swann do what he does best- ‘Lead by example’. With a year's experience in Swann's leadership under their belt, the Alphas will be a major force to be reckoned with in the next edition of the Hockey India League.