Nearly three years after she last pulled on a Canberra United shirt, Clare Hunt is back in the Westfield W-League after a series of excruciating knee injuries. While the road to recovery was longer than she expected, the 21-year-old defender is grateful for the lessons she learned along the way.
In January 2018, Hunt tore her ACL during training and began the long 12-month recovery but complications with her other knee curtailed her plans and put her out of the Westfield W-League for two seasons.
"When I did my knee, I just focused on coming back," Hunt shared. "I obviously didn't expect it to be as long-winded as it was. The biggest thing I learned was to be patient and to trust myself and trust the process.
"Taking the time to do what you need to do to get yourself right is important."
Hunt believes that the last couple of years have only made her a better player.
"What I have learned during the last three years off the field was crucial to me to develop as a player with a sense of maturity, a sense of mental toughness and a sense of leadership," she said.
"Now I can be there and support other people who are situations similar to mine, and give support and guidance to teammates who are going through injuries or struggling in other ways.
"It has been a good learning experience. I have definitely grown as a player."
Growing up in Grenfell, NSW, Canberra has always been a second home to Hunt. When she was 15, Hunt joined the Canberra United Academy where she was coached by Rae Dower. Two years later, she made her Westfield W-League debut at McKellar Park, coming off the bench in United's 5-2 win over Newcastle Jets.
She went on to make a total of 11 appearances for the club and now she is eager to pull on the jersey for the 12th time.
"The Academy gave me the opportunity to play NTC and to be identified for Young Matildas, so it was a really good opportunity for me to take the Canberra pathway," Hunt said. "So Canberra has always been one of my homes.
"It is wonderful to be back with the club and I am really excited for the season ahead."