Monday 17 June 2019, 14:00

Polkinghorne: The Matildas have a little book club going

  • Aussie stalwart Clare Polkinghorne has a voracious appetite for books

  • The 30-year-old has a degree in criminology and psychology

  • Polkinghorne outlines why footballers need to have other hobbies

By Pete Smith with Australia

“A reader lives a thousand lives before they die. Those who never read live only one.” George R.R. Martin

Most modern footballers spend their down time playing video games, pouring over social media or lounging around over coffee. Australia’s defensive stalwart Clare Polkinghorne prefers a somewhat more cerebral pursuit.

The former Matildas skipper spends her time churning through book after book. And Polkinghorne is no casual reader, more a book-lover extraordinaire.

Her current 'book challenge' for this year is to read 38 books. That comes in at a mind-bending three million words or so.

“I go on Goodreads and set myself my own book challenge," Polkinghorne told “It has to be a proper book. Some are shorter but some of them are 500-600 pages.

“Usually one of the first questions I get when I arrive in camp is, ‘What are you reading?’. People often ask for me for a suggestion. We have a few bookworms. 'Meeks' (Tameka Yallop) is pretty good for a book, and we always go and back and forth for suggestions. We've got a little book club going!”

‘Polks’, as she has been known since debuting as a 17-year-old in 2006, has been far from inactive away from football. The Brisbane Roar skipper and Houston Dash defender has completed an undergrad in psychology and criminology, and is working on completing a masters in criminology, and wants to join the federal police when her playing days are over.

“Fiction or non-fiction doesn’t matter so much, I try to mix it up,” she said. “I read a lot of different genres, but I like crime thrillers which are good, easy reads, and in non-fiction I like psychology-related books. Mostly of late I have been reading fiction to get the mind off things and have a bit of an escape."

Along with Lisa De Vanna, Polkinghorne is the only squad member who played in Australia’s breakthrough quarter-final finish at China 2007. Polkinghorne was an integral member of the side that reprised that feat four years later in Germany.

But the last FIFA Women's World Cup™ was a different experience for Polkinghorne. Despite being co-captain, game-time was not forthcoming.

Polkinghorne was reading Jack Kerouac’s iconic On The Road during Canada 2015 – a road-trip tale in part about a search for something unattainable. Perhaps appropriately, it was one of the few books Polkinghorne failed to finish.

The popular and highly-respected squad member, however, kept her bearing throughout the team’s month in Canada despite the disappointment.

“I didn’t really turn to books [to cope]. I had a leadership role in the team and that gave me something else to focus on.

“The kind of books that I like focus on controlling the mental side of things and I think that really helps [in football]. I think mostly you take sub-conscious help from those books.”

Was the disappointment of Canada 2015 a driving force in the four years leading up to France 2019?

“You always want to be contributing on the field and playing in big tournaments, but I wouldn’t say it drove me,” said Polkinghorne, who is Australia’s fourth most-capped player with 118 appearances. “I’m a pretty driven person regardless of the circumstances, and I would want to achieve for different reasons than righting a wrong, if you want to put it that way.

“Having something else that you can go to in order to relax is a good thing, whether it is reading, drawing or whatever. It is about finding what works for you, and having that mental break to help you tune out.”

On Twitter | Facebook | Instagram