Polkinghorne: Matildas building nicely for a massive year

Westfield Matildas co-captain Clare Polkinghorne is looking forward to a momentous year for the national team.

Westfield Matildas co-captain Clare Polkinghorne is looking forward to a momentous year for the national team highlighted by the AFC Women-s Asian Cup, which doubles as FIFA Women-s World Cup qualifying.

Australia will go into that tournament in May as reigning champions, but before that they have the team will compete at the prestigious 12-nation Cyprus Cup early next month, where they have been drawn alongside France, Scotland and the Netherlands.

The inspirational Polkinghorne talks about the year ahead, a hunger to defend the Asian crown, the new direction of the national team under Hesterine De Reus and Brisbane Roar-s belated charge for Westfield W-League glory.

It looms as a huge year for the Westfield Matildas, with the AFC Women-s Asian Cup the obvious highlight? It is a massive year with the Asian Cup and with the Matildas aiming to go back-to-back in Asia. Leading up to that we have a pretty full schedule, so it is exciting. It will also be interesting to see how we go after the W-League following a break from the national team.

And some big games coming up in a few weeks at the Cyprus Cup It will be a great experience for us to go to a tournament and play some big teams. We played France and Netherlands who we also played last year. It will be a tough test and hopefully we get into the swing of things quickly and put in some good performances.

Does being Asian champs provide even more hunger to succeed in Vietnam, or alternatively does it provide more pressure? It is going to be difficult to go back-to-back. Other countries will want to beat us every time they play us. Any time you are looking to do the double there is added pressure, and teams step up against you. Opening against Japan will be a massive start to the tournament for us.

In what ways has the team developed over the past 12 months since Hesterine took charge? Obviously we have a new system of play, which everyone is buying into. It means learning new roles. It has been a bit different to what it is has been in the past, but change is always good. We have put in some good performances especially later in the year, most notably against France. We have an idea of what we need to improve on.

Is the team settling into the new style of play? It is still a work in progress but we have come a long way. Anytime you have a new system or under a new coaching style it takes some time to adjust, but I think the girls have done a great job to be open to change, and have taken it in their stride, so it has been good so far.

The Matildas had a lot of young or new players in camp for the recent China series. How do you think the depth is looking? The depth is getting better and better. The Westfield W-League has seen some more players putting their hand up and maybe in the mix again. It will be tough for Hesterine to put a squad together which is a good position to be in, but that is good for the future of the Matildas.

On a personal note, how are you enjoying wearing the captain-s armband for the Matildas as co-captain with Kate Gill? It has been really good. Unfortunately Katie had a few injury setbacks so I wore the captain-s armband more than I expected. There is no greater honour than captain your country so I-m very much enjoying it.

We are now at the business end of the W-League season, are Brisbane ready to find their form after some erratic results? We haven-t been as consistent as we would have liked this season. But we are into the semis and once you do that anything can happen. I think the performances we have been putting in have been promising. We have some minor adjustments to make and once we get them right I have full confidence that we can go a long way.

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