Dodd leading by example

Adelaide's United's achievement in reaching the AFC Champions League final and with it a spot at the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2008 was of course a team effort, but there is no doubt that captain Travis Dodd was an indispensable cog in the Reds machine.

In United's first tilt at the AFC Champions League in 2007, Dodd became the only Australian to score a hat trick in Asian competition. The form of the Adelaide born-and-bred Dodd has continued this campaign, to the extent that a number of J-League clubs have been linked to the pacy right winger.

Dodd's leadership on the field is matched by his status as a role model for Australia's indigenous community, with the 28-year-old one of just a handful of players with Aboriginal heritage to have appeared for the Socceroos.

Excitement builds
The twice-capped striker has certainly enjoyed a remarkable first season as captain, leading by example with some inspirational performances as well as three crucial goals in their Champions League campaign.

The Reds defied the odds in reaching the finals despite being considered outsiders in their quarter-final against Kashima Antlers and their last four meeting with Uzbekistan's Bunyodkor, and it is these achievements that have Dodd believing that more success in Japan is achievable.

They have beaten us twice now, so it would be good to get one over them. First though we have to get past the New Zealanders, which will be tough.
Dodd on Gamba Osaka.

"Not many people gave us a chance in the Champions League to progress, even out of the group stage, and we proved them wrong," he said. "I don't see any reason why we can't achieve something significant again. It is going to be tough, but we have defied the odds before. The Aussie mentality of never giving up, the will to win and to succeed - that plays a big part [in the club's success]."

Dodd stated after the Champions League final against Gamba Osaka that it felt like the Japanese outfit had 15 players on the field, such was their dominance. "It would be nice to knock them over," he said with typical Aussie understatement. "They have beaten us twice now, so it would be good to get one over them. First though we have to get past the New Zealanders, which will be tough. They will want to impress the rest of the world just as much as we do.

"It is a huge honour in my first year as captain to lead the team to an Asian Champions League final and the FIFA Club World Cup. The tournament is a massive opportunity for the team and the club. We're hoping for success over Gamba, and then on to Manchester United. That would be a dream meeting and hopefully we can do ourselves justice and get there."

Community role model
Having followed up his historic hat-trick in Asian competition by becoming the first Aussie to captain his club to an AFC Champions League final, it would seem that Dodd is making a habit of firsts. Yet the one dearest to Dodd's heart occurred in August 2006, when he scored his first and, to date, only goal for Australia.

The strike helped the Socceroos to an AFC Asian Cup qualifying win over Kuwait, but the real significance was that it was the first goal to be scored for the national team by an indigenous Australian. There have only been a handful of Aboriginal players to appear for the Socceroos and, before Dodd's landmark goal, none had got their names on the scoresheet.

Aboriginals have tended to gravitate towards Australian Rules football as their preferred sport, but Dodd is leading a new and growing wave opting for the beautiful game. "I would love to see the (indigenous) numbers grow in the A-League," he said. "With the club doing so well in the Asian Champions League, it shows the young indigenous kids there is an opportunity to see how far in the world they can go and travel. They are not just limited to Australia like you are with Aussie Rules.

"I see myself as a role model for the indigenous kids, and hopefully they can get in the game and have some of the successes that I have had in my career."