Clare Polkinghorne Gets Her Packing Priorities Straight


The Matildas co-captain has the secret to packing light: be on the Australian football team. But the space saved by not taking civvies is filled with books.

How much time do you spend away?

It depends on our football schedule – last year was extremely busy. The team spent a lot of time in Canberra, training at the Australian Institute of Sport. We also spent a month in Japan at our Olympics qualifiers and seven weeks in Brazil for the Olympics.

How do you pack for long overseas trips?

It’s easy because the Matildas pretty much wear team gear the entire time we’re away. So I just pack that and make sure I’ve got plenty of books to last me.

Do you roll or fold?

I’m definitely a folder and I have packing tubes for each section of my suitcase: one for T-shirts and shorts, another for shoes and one for books. I’m a pretty neat packer.

What’s your airport routine?

I stress a bit about being late so I like to get there in plenty of time. I go to Watermark Books & Cafe at Brisbane Airport and get a coffee. And I usually cave in and buy another book that I don’t need. 

You sound too organised to have ever missed a flight…

Actually I have, recently, and it was the worst feeling in the world. I set my alarm and it didn’t go off. I woke up just as the plane was about to board. I was flying to Sydney for a photo shoot and I did make it in the end but it wasn’t a nice feeling at all.

What was the last book you read on a plane?

Wind/Pinball by Haruki Murakami. They’re his first two novels [in one book].

And the last film you watched on a plane?

The Will to Fly, about [Australian Olympic freestyle skier] Lydia Lassila.

What stretches do you do midair?

Usually, I have to go straight into training so I need to make sure I land in good condition. Because I’m sitting for long periods, I do the hip flexor stretch: you get down on one knee with the other leg bent in front of you and lean into it.

Do you and your teammates have very different routines on the plane?

Some of the girls love to have a chat and will talk to anybody and everybody on the plane; some are asleep as soon as they sit down; and others put on a movie. I get out everything I need – laptop, water, books and a change of clothes – then I start reading.

Are you a chatty seat mate?

If I’m travelling alone, I don’t talk much to the person next to me. If they strike up a conversation, I’m happy to talk but then I’ll finish it, politely, and get back to my book.

Do you sleep on the plane?

Only if it’s a long flight and I need to. I’ve found earplugs and an eye mask helpful.

What’s your favourite touchdown moment?

It’s always a nice feeling touching down in Australia. When we landed in Sydney after the Rio Olympics, I had to get another flight to Brisbane. All my family were waiting at the airport with balloons. It was really exciting. You never get sick of it.

Do you suffer from jet lag?

It’s a big challenge as an athlete. When we went to Brazil, there was a 13-hour time difference so it’s probably the toughest I’ve experienced. I think it’s just about getting into the time zone as early as you can. That way, you know how long you need to stay up or when you should sleep during the flight.

How do you maximise your time in the air?

I’m quite productive on planes – I seem to get through a lot of study. [Polkinghorne is doing a Master of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University.] There must be something in the air for me to be able to focus and concentrate. 

SEE ALSO: Travel Talk with Jennifer Byrne

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