To call recent Melbourne Victory debutant Polly Doran a high-achiever might be underselling things a tad.
The 18-year-old recorded her first-ever W-League appearance in week one of the 2019/20 season when she replaced Teigen Allen as a 79th-minute substitute in Sunday evening’s Big Blue meeting between Victory and Sydney FC.
Though the scoreline conspired to ensure that her W-League bow was not to be an unabashed success – Poran entered the game with her side down 2-0 and ultimately watched on as Sydney’s Shadeene Evans made it 3-0 in the 92nd minute – the opportunity to run out onto the surface at Jubilee Stadium was, nevertheless, a memorable moment.
“The lead up to it was very exciting,” the teen told The Women’s Game.
“Going on, it was such a blur really. I was trying to take everything in but at the same time focus on the job I had to do.
“After the game, obviously the disappointment of the result was the main thing for me, but once I could reflect on it I was pretty proud, my family was pretty proud.
“It was a good moment. The result definitely didn’t go our way, but it was still a great feel-good moment for me."
However, while Sunday’s contest, without a doubt, represented the highest level of competition Doran has yet experienced in her burgeoning footballing career, it was far from the first time the youngster had experienced senior football.
Debuting for Essendon Royals’ senior side at the age of 14 in 2016, Doran then became a regular for the club’s State League One campaign the following year before earning a move to NPLW Victoria powerhouses Calder United ahead of the 2018 season.
Playing behind Calder’s high-powered front three of Aleksandra Sinclair, Catherine Zimmerman and Angie Beard – who moonlights higher up the pitch in the NPLW – Doran was still able to find the back of the net seven times in 25 appearances in her first season in the Victorian top-flight and then followed that up with 14 goals in 29 appearances in 2019.
Those individual accomplishments were matched with team success; Calder lifting the Team App Cup in 2018 and becoming the first side in the NPLW-era to secure the treble when they won the Nike FC Cup, Premiership and Championship in 2019.
Not a bad run for a kid who was juggling her football career with completion of high school.
“I was at Maribyrnong Sports Academy, so they were really big on making sure that the students were able to balance the athletic side with their studies,” Doran explained
“Throughout the whole of my secondary schooling there, they really helped us with how to manage that. I felt when the time did come where I was having to balance full-time training and school, I was able to do that quite easily with time management.
“[By VCE time] I’d gotten used to a heavy training load training with school and Calder, so the school really made it easy for me and the coaches at Victory did as well. I didn’t find it too hard but there was definitely a lot on at once.
“[Victory pre-season’s] been really good, I’ve enjoyed it a lot and it’s been pretty full-on; finishing school and then jumping straight into that.
“But I’ve just been trying to put my head down and try to improve every day. The coaching staff and players have been really good, they’ve made the transition really easy for me to that professional environment so I’m really enjoying it."
Doran and her teammates will look to regroup from their opening round defeat to the Harboursiders this Thursday when they travel to Queensland to take on Brisbane Roar at Dolphin Stadium in round two’s edition of Hersday Night Football.
Despite playing two of the W-League’s title favourites in the opening two rounds of the season, there will be no let-up for Victory.
The squad is set to jet off to South Korea to take on Japanese side Nippon TV Beleza, Chinese side Jiangsu Suning and South Korean side Incheon Hyundai Steel Red Angels in the first AFC Women's Club Championship from November 26-30.
“We get back on Friday afternoon and then we’ll head off on Saturday for Korea,” said Doran
“It’ll be exciting just to see a different culture and different styles of play. Hopefully, we can do well and show them what us Australian teams are about.
“I think we’ve got a good squad this year and the coaches are putting a lot of belief into everyone so, hopefully, I can get some game time and get my confidence up so when we come back I can do my job in the W-League well.
“Individually I’m just trying to better my game as much as I can; every day I’m trying to learn as much as I can.
“Obviously from there I’m trying to get myself selected for the Young Matildas' squads and some of those teams coming up. I’m trying to get myself into as many teams as I can for Victory, play as many games as I can, score a goal or two if I can and as a team, we want to try and win everything.
“I believe we have the squad to do it and so do the other players and coaches.”