By Kieran Yap (24/3/23)
Above: Polly Doran in action for Crystal Palace away to Sheffield United in a recent Championship match. Photo: Matthew Appleby.
The weather is cold, the league is tough, but Polly Doran is used to overcoming (and dishing out) challenges.
“London life has been great so far,” The Crystal Palace full back told Impetus. “It’s definitely been a adjustment, but I’ve loved exploring a new city and have managed a bit of sightseeing in my spare time. The weather is the only downfall really, I’m definitely missing the sun.”
Doran has been a regular starter at the Barclays Championship (tier two) side since arriving from Australia. Her runs from deep and dangerous crossing have made her an asset to the South London side. Doran has made the step up to European football easily, but given her journey so far, it should come as no surprise.
Doran arrived at the top of the Australian game by taking the scenic route. She did not rise through of any of the usual elite pathways such as the Future Matildas. Instead, Doran first came to prominence at Essendon Royals in Victoria’s third tier.
Success at that level attracted the attention of Calder United. The NPLW side is one of Victoria’s most successful women’s teams. They have a winning culture and under then manager Mark Torcaso, were able to attract some of the best players in the country. Future and former A-League Women’s and international players adorn the Calder United team sheet of that era. Doran shared the locker room with names like Catherine Zimmerman, and Angie Beard. Both of whom would become A-League Grand Final teammates.
It was in 2019 when Doran became well known to Victorian football fans. Across 29 games Doran scored 14 goals. Playing mostly as an attacker, she used her now familiar pace and tenacity to make a big impact as Calder United charged to another trophy.
That same year, she was signed by Melbourne Victory for the 2019/20 season, although the then 17-year-old only made seven appearances.
In the 2020/21 season, Doran was shifted to right back, and was a crucial piece of the puzzle as Victory finished third, but won the Grand Final in dramatic style.
The following season, she established herself as one of the best fullbacks in a league brimming with them. Victory were struck by injuries and disadvantaged by a COVID outbreak and an overly congested fixture. However Doran was tireless and almost flawless as the reigning champions defended their crown.
Her success as a dual league champion has resulted in a move to Europe, and while there is a slight adjustment off the pitch, she has looked as comfortable as ever bombarding along that right flank at Crystal Palace.
“The move to Palace came about mainly through my agent networking with some clubs, and Victory being open to forming a good relationship with Palace. I was lucky that I had all the right people trying to help me and push me forward in my career.
“The A-League prepared me well for European football as I had experience playing first team football since I was 17. It exposed me to professionalism required at that level, as well as being away from home and travelling to train and play.
“The culture is pretty similar, everyone is easy going. But I’d say the lack of good beaches has been the biggest one. I’m very lucky in the area I live there’s plenty of good cafes around, Aussies seem to have influenced it a fair bit and the coffee has been decent.”
Doran was a firm fan favourite during her time at Victory and is on track to emulate that status in London. The Melbourne Victory fans, known as The Victory Vikings, have followed her progress, and in Australia, the their former hero’s London club is now affectionately dubbed Polly’s Palace.
“I’m definitely missing the Vikings and their mascots,” says Doran. “But my family has been going to the Victory games and keeping me updated with what’s going on.”
Crystal Palace have signed a rising Australian star and one that has been a habitual winner at every stage of her career and in whatever position she has played in. Polly Doran might have come up the long way, but she has made it look easy.