Matildas captaincy lifts Kerr to new level

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Sam Kerr has no plans of losing the Matildas' "class clown" title but as captain she's found the perfect way to balance her backflips with keeping her feet firmly on the ground.

Kerr was already the Matildas' biggest name when former coach Ante Milicic appointed her as captain in February 2019.

Nearly three years on, the 28-year-old appreciates how the armband has mellowed her off the field.

"When I used to come in to camp the only thing that mattered was how I performed... but as the captain there's other things that come into it," Kerr told AAP in an exclusive interview.

"It's made me a little bit more mellow. I was a little bit more of a class clown in the past.

"I still like to have fun, the girls all say I'm the class clown but there's definitely a more serious side to me that I think about when I'm in camp now.

"But I enjoy it because at club land it's time for me to just focus on performance."

Captaincy, which Kerr previously experienced at Perth Glory, certainly hasn't taken a toll on her output.

Rather than wilting under the additional responsibility, Kerr has scored 22 of her 49 international goals as skipper.

It hasn't surprised vice-captain and long-term teammate Steph Catley.

"She's matured into this incredibly grounded person, despite the attention and then everything that she's done," Catley told AAP.

"She's still so humble and so passionate about our team and the people in our team.

"To have that relationship with her as a leadership duo has been really good. We balance each other out really well.

"She's just herself and she believes in what she says. She's able to do that and still perform on the field the way she has."

At Chelsea, who she joined in November 2019, Kerr has scored at will, claimed a WSL golden boot, won two WSL titles and League Cups and recently re-signed until 2024.

This week, she was shortlisted for the FIFA Best Women's Player award for a fifth consecutive year.

The subtle changes in Kerr's demeanour and her game since being named Matildas captain have coincided with lessons she's picked up at Chelsea, where she's taken her build-up play to another level under Emma Hayes.

"Chelsea really sets me up to play well for my national team which is obviously the most important thing for me," she said.

As Kerr prepares to lead Australia in two friendlies against the Unites States, January's Asian Cup and, most likely, the 2023 Women's World Cup on home soil, her teammates couldn't be more comfortable following her.

"It was a natural progression for the direction that this team was taking," teammate and former skipper Clare Polkinghorne told AAP.

"She was the perfect candidate for it and she's proved everyone right."

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