AUSvNZL: Two players to watch: Polkinghorne v Percival

With two days remaining before our first Olympic match against rivals New Zealand, let us compare two defenders that will head into the tournament as pivotal for their nation's success

The two individuals in focus, are Australia's Clare Polkinghorne and New Zealand's Ria Percival, both mainstays in the European game and the highest capped playerS in their respective Olympic sides. 

While Polkinghorne intends to celebrate her second appearance at an Olympic Games, her Kiwi rival will incredibly be notching up her fourth Games appearance, after making her debut at Beijing 2008, 13 years ago.

Both Polkinghorne and Percival are regarded as leaders at the back with an emphasis on their physical dominance, both in the air and on the ground. However, that's where a lot of the similarities end, with both players having experienced vastly different routes to success, and are expected to play different styles of football throughout the Tokyo Olympics.

Style of Players:

One thing you can expect from two internationals who have achieved a combined 250+ international appearances is reliability. Any success at a major tournament requires a general at the back who will stand up when their side is under pressure, Polkinghorne and Percival both fit that mould.

Both are known for their physical dominance, in defence and even in attack. Incredibly over their international careers, the two centre-backs have recorded 10+ goals for their country, 14 for Percival and 12 for Polkinghorne respectfully.

Where they may differ in their style of play, comes less from their individual styles, but from the intent of their sides and the quality of their opponents.

Australian coach Tony Gustavsson will expect his side to be play at a high-tempo, with Polkinghorne crucial to that, defending high and starting all the side's attacks, with her array of pass selections.

New Zealand on the other hand are traditionally solid in defence and enjoy soaking up pressure, with a tough group ahead, Percival will need to use her expertise in the air and ball skills in tight spaces to diffuse attacks from quality Australian, Swedish and American forwards.


Clare Polkinghorne of Australia in action during the women's international friendly match between Japan and Australia at Sanga Stadium by Kyocera on July 14, 2021 in Kameoka, Kyoto, Japan. (Photo by Masashi Hara/Getty Images)

Path to the Olympics:

One glaring difference between the two experienced internationals, is the manner in which both have made a name for themselves.

No one can deny, Clare Polkinghorne is a true Queenslander and a fan favourite of all citizens from the Sunshine State. Born in Brisbane, Polkinghorne quickly rose through the ranks in her state's junior system before making her debut for hometown club Brisbane Roar, at 19. 

Despite challenging herself in the United States, Japan, Norway, and now Sweden, the 32-year-old always made her way back during the summer months to represent the Queensland outfit, having now accrued 13 years at the club.

The fanaticism of Roar supporters and her talents domestically have helped propel Polkinghorne into the national eye, heading into Tokyo as Australia's most experienced footballer, with an extraordinary 129 international appearances to her name.



Percival on the other hand, played her junior football in Auckland, yet opted for a move to the United States at the age of 17. Having become established in the New Zealand national side, the then 21-year-old made the shift to German outfit Frankfurt in 2011, with an intention to establish herself in Europe, almost 10 years earlier than Polkinghorne.

Now 31, Percival has become a mainstay in England with Tottenham Hotspur, after seven successful years in both Germany and Switzerland.