How Westfield Matildas stalwart is embracing fresh challenges

At 29, Clare Polkinghorne isn’t slowing down.

The Westfield Matildas stalwart, who has earned over 100 caps in the 12 years since her debut, is in arguably the form of her career.

A superb 2017/18 Westfield W-League season saw her earn the Julie Dolan Medal, shared with Sam Kerr, and to help her game go to the next level, the hard-as-nails centre back is embracing her return to the United States.

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GUIDE: Our Westfield Matildas defenders for Tournament of Nations

Polkinghorne signed for NWSL side Houston Dash in June, mid-way through the US club season, and with the 2018 Tournament of Nations fast approaching she chatted with about her move.

“It’s a bit of a challenge to join a team halfway through the season,” Polkinghorne explained. 

“We had some pretty consistent results for the first part of the year and I think probably since my first games we’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“But I’ve really enjoyed my first month here and I’m settling in nicely and getting some good game time. Things are just starting to gel a little bit better. I’m just getting used to the way everyone plays and we’re getting there but we’ve definitely made it hard for ourselves to make the finals.”

Brisbane Roar’s Westfield W-League captain — who guided the team to the 2017/18 Premiership — Polkinghorne is most at home in the heart of defence.

But since moving Houston, ‘Polks’ has been fielded in a new position — a defensive midfielder. That’s not the only change she’s had to contend with either.


“It’s been a bit of challenge to me not only to adjust to a new team and new style of play but also a different position,” Polkinghorne admitted.

“I’ve enjoyed challenge and just learning little bits about different positions. Obviously, I’ve played centre back for most I’ve my career …b ut I’m happy to do what the team needs and to challenge myself along the way.”

She added: “It’s my first time in Houston and I didn’t really know what to expect coming in. 

“As soon as you land you begin to realise the heat and humidity is pretty intense. Being from Brisbane I’m used to humid conditions but that’s probably the one thing that really stands out for me.”

Polkinghorne and Westfield Matildas teammate Kyah Simon will play their final game for the Dash on Sunday morning AEST against Washington Spirit before arriving in camp to prepare for the Tournament of Nations.

Houston are in need of a win to keep their play-off hopes alive but as soon as the test in Washington is passed, the Aussie duo will turn their focuses to facing Brazil on Friday 27 June with expectations high to back up the 2017 Tournament of Nations success.

“I think any time you head into a tournament as defending champions you’ve always got that expectation,” Polkinghorne said.

“The other teams are wanting to beat you and we haven’t been in that position before, not since the Asian Cup in 2010. 

“Going in to this Tournament of Nations, there is that level of expectation on us to do that again and I think coming off the disappointment of the Asian Cup final loss to Japan, we’re definitely going there to win. We’ve got three hard games against tough opposition and it’s going to be a very good couple of weeks for us.”

Polkinghorne added: “I don’t think the last few months or so we’ve played the kind of football we can play.

“We have to stick together and continue to improve as a group and everything we do is in preparation for the World Cup next year. 

“That’s our focus — to make sure everybody’s on board in the way we want to play, our structures and our processes and giving people experience at the international level as well.”

2018 Tournament of Nations – Westfield Matildas Match Schedule

Brazil v Westfield Matildas
Date: Thursday, 26 July 2018 (local)
Venue: Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kansas
Kick-off: 3.15pm (local) (6.15am AEST – Friday, 27 July 2018)
Broadcast: LIVE in Australia on FOX SPORTS 507

USA v Westfield Matildas
Date: Sunday, 29 July 2018 (local)
Venue: Pratt & Whitney Stadium, East Hartford, Connecticut
Kick-off: 7pm (local) (9am AEST – Monday, 30 July 2018)
Broadcast: LIVE in Australia on FOX SPORTS 505

Westfield Matildas v Japan
Date: Thursday, 2 August 2018 (local)
Venue: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois
Kick-off: 4.45pm (local) (7.45am AEST – Friday, 3 August 2018)
Broadcast: LIVE in Australia on FOX SPORTS 505