Mackenzie Arnold’s international career has been a slow burn. Since making her Matildas debut in goal as an eighteen-year old in 2012 she’s only once managed more than four appearances in a calendar year, perennially competing with stalwart Lydia Williams and more recently, Teagan Micah.

But just months from what would be a third World Cup, Arnold’s career looks finally set to ignite. Having muscled her way to the front of that queue for the recent Cup of Nations tournament she’s made herself momentarily undroppable with two clean sheets and the player of the tournament gong.

‘It’s been a bit of a roller coaster to be honest, both emotionally and physically’, Arnold told Box2Box in reflecting on her stop-start decade with the national team.

‘When I was young I took a lot on board mentally and learnt as much as I could. But coming into more recent years I wanted that No.1 spot and it hasn’t happened as soon as I would have wanted.

‘But coming off the Cup of Nations I was really happy with my performances, so hopefully I can take that into the World Cup and see what happens from there.’

Like many of her Matildas teammates Arnold spent almost ten years establishing herself in the then-W-League, and is now making the most of the opportunities on offer in the rapidly improved English Women’s Super League. Joining West Ham in mid-2020, she’s won the battle to become a mainstay over the past eighteen months.

‘I played overseas in Norway and America before coming here, but the quality that this league provides with such a professional environment, playing against some of the best players in the world, really opens your eyes and makes you take that step forward in your career.

‘The training over the last seven or eight months has kicked up a gear and I think it’s really helped mentally as well as a goalkeeper and that’s really important, to be physically ready but mentally as well.

‘Just being over here in England is a completely different footballing culture to Australia, a lot more people are passionate about it. It’s a whole different experience, it comes from the moment you step onto the field from the training facility. Everything is a step higher.’

The Matildas next look to continue their seven-game winning run with a friendly against European champions England on April 12 in Brentford. The two nations’ rivalry runs deep through any sport or culture, and is steadily building in women’s football.

Australia edged Team Great Britain 4-3 in extra time to advance to the semi-finals of the Tokyo Olympics in mid-2021 in a genuine thriller. Just like at the last two World Cups in Canada and France, Arnold watched the drama from the bench, but now looks set to be in the thick of it in 2023.

‘It’s going to be a good game. Ever since the Team GB game at the Olympics there’s been a bit of rivalry and we all play each other in this [English] League, so we’re excited to face each other on the national stage.’