How music helped Wilkinson's remarkable comeback

9 Jun 2019
  • Hannah Wilkinson battled back from an ACL injury to take her place at France 2019

  • The New Zealand star is also a talented musician and singer

  • She explained how music aided her recovery and surprisingly speedy comeback

By Brendan Bradford with New Zealand

Hannah Wilkinson thought her dream of playing in a third FIFA Women’s World Cup™ was over when she tore her ACL last October.

But after surgery and some long, lonely months rehabbing her injured knee, she’s in France with her Football Ferns team-mates as they look to advance to the knockout stage of a World Cup for the first time.

Away from the pitch, Wilkinson is a talented musician and artist, and she says music played a crucial role in her incredible comeback. “It was definitely necessary. It was a big, big part of my recovery process,” she said.

“There was so much pressure at some stages and I’d just catch myself overthinking everything. Music meant that I could take a step back and just lose myself in a song or something.

“That’s what the guitar and getting away to sing does for you. It lets you drift off somewhere else, which was really necessary.”

Wilkinson was given her first guitar at the age of 12, had lessons for a year and began singing when she was 16. She’s now released two songs and performs live on stage.

“I just fell in love with it and wanted to keep playing and playing,” she said. “I love music anyway: I’ve grown up with all kinds of music so to be able to create my own is a really healthy escape from the pressures of football.

“I like to play in front of people because it’s scary but I’d like to do more performances in and around football. I’ve done a few in Sweden, which is really good practise because it’s so different playing live.”

Asked to describe her style, Wilkinson tips her hat to one of the music world’s biggest current stars.

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - JUNE 10: Hannah Wilkinson and Stephanie Skilton of New Zealand take the field to warm up during the International Friendly match between the New Zealand Football Ferns and Japan at Westpac Stadium on June 10, 2018 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

“I’d say an Ed Sheeran sort of style,” she said. “He seems to create a beat himself. He doesn’t necessarily need percussion in his songs. He makes it himself the way he writes and the way he plays, which I really like.”

Although she’s now part of a Football Ferns side with renewed confidence under coach Tom Sermanni, Wilkinson says there were some tough moments on the comeback trail.

“The mental side of the whole thing is the toughest part,” she said. “Physically, I had that nailed. But the mental and emotional side is not easy. I had plenty of dark days.

“It’s a very isolating experience – you feel like you’re very much on the outside. All the support that I had along the way was crucial in this comeback.”