Clare Hunt's Matildas bolt from the blue was years in the making

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It's been 169 days since Clare Hunt debuted for the Matildas.

It feels trite to once again speak about the impact she has made on this Australian defence in such a short amount of time but she has been gargantuan.

There were no guarantees that Hunt would ever break out of the cycle of injury-rehab-return in order to get her shot at the national team.

In the leadup to the World Cup, the 24-year-old explained just how horrid her injury run was.

"Over the course of the five years, I had seven surgeries," she said. "A lot of them were long-term ones so minimum four to six months rehab.

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"I had three surgeries on one knee just to sort one issue so that took around two years. So I think it was always just like building myself up to complete a rehab, feel really good about it, play a few games, back at square one.

"And I felt like I just did that seven times in a row, and I never really had consistency. I never felt like I could express myself as a footballer.

"I was more known for how well I rehabbed and that's really frustrating when you don't want to be a rehabber."

Finally the clouds parted for Hunt. A strong A-League Women season with Western Sydney allowed her to play consistently and a heaping dose of good luck meant injury wasn't a factor for once.

Since her debut in February against the Czech Republic, Hunt hasn't missed a single Matildas match. There would be few Australian players who have enjoyed a better run of games to open their national team career. For Hunt, a third of her national team appearances have come at the Women's World Cup.

When you watch Hunt play, there's no surprise that she has done as well as she has or has settled in as quickly as she has. No matter perhaps sums up how she goes about her football than a photo posted to teammate Alanna Kennedy's Instagram following the Matildas win against Canada.

From left to right, Steph Catley, Hayley Raso and Kennedy are celebrating one of Raso's goals. Next to Kennedy, on the right, is Hunt. Both of her fingers are pointed to her temples in a universally understood sign for 'focus'.

That's the kind of player Hunt is on the field. That's not to say she hasn't been enjoying herself or celebrating her team's success. The point is rather that this nine-game veteran isn't here to muck around. It's evident in the way she defends, snuffing out chances with a no nonsense attitude. It's even evident in the way she speaks about her role at this World Cup, considering where she's come from.

"For me, there's not a large of difference between international friendlies and the World Cup other than the occasion itself. I am just focusing on the games at hand, and regardless of the opposition, doing my job to allow the team to succeed. I'm just enjoying it putting myself out there and just taking everything in my stride," she told media.

The combination of Hunt and Kennedy in the heart of defence, backed by Mackenzie Arnold in goal and flanked by Steph Catley and Ellie Carpenter has been tested so far this World Cup. But barring the errors against Nigeria, the maturity and composure of the defensive quintet has been a crucial part in Australia progressing through to the knockout stages.

It has been so effective it has allowed Clare Polkinghorne to rehab and recover from plantar fasciitis. When speaking of her junior namesake, Polkinghorne, much like the rest of the Matildas, was strong in her praise for Hunt.

"Clare from her first game, she's just slotted in like she's been there for years. So yes, I'm not surprised in the slightest at how she's handled the World Cup and playing alongside [Alanna Kennedy]," she said.

"They're both fantastic players and really feed off each other's energy. So for me, it's a pretty good thing to sit back and watch them do what they do. And yeah, it's pretty good for me to come on when it's three nil up. Keep rolling with that."

There are plenty of similarities between the Clares. Something that has been immensely reassuring to Australian fans. When asked if she saw the resemblance, Polkinghorne answered in typical Clare fashion.

"She's much better than me," she laughed.

"But yeah, she's solid. She'll be the future of this backline and I couldn't be more proud of her. She's really fantastic."