Carlton defender Lachie Plowman a perfect piece of the Blues' puzzle

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Lachie Plowman's hands move rapidly around the Rubik's Cube. A couple of quick flicks, then three turns, then a twist, brief pause for thought, then flick, flick, flick. Now his teammates are watching. "You can't solve that Plow!" one teammate says, incredulous. But just as on the footy field, Plowman is unflappable. Flick. Turn. Flick. It looks as though he's made 10 moves in a couple of seconds. The expression on the face of fellow Blue Dylan Buckley says it all. "He's actually doing it!" In less than two minutes, Plowman has lined up the colours. White. Red. Green. Orange. Yellow. Blue. He looks up, smiling. Solved. 

It's easy to forget that footballers bring diverse skills to football clubs. Geelong's Steven Motlop plays a handy guitar. Brisbane Lions youngster Sam Skinner is a talented sketcher. Demon Ben Kennedy is a talented skateboarder. And while former teammates at Greater Western Sydney were familiar with Plowman's party trick – that earned him a reputation, according to one former teammate, as something of a "Rainman" – few at Carlton knew of this talent before Thursday.

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Lachie Plowman vs. Rubik's Cube

Say, how quickly can Carlton footballer Lachie Plowman master a Rubik's Cube?

It started with a moment of boredom in his year 12 maths class – at Sacred Heart College, Kyneton – when a mate of Plowman's challenged him to solve the famous puzzle. As a kid Plowman was always interested in patterns, numbers and puzzles. And his mind is a sponge. After watching a few tutorials, he had mastered the science. "It's all patterns," he says.

"Algorithms ... just about patterns and memory."

A bit like footy really. Especially the way it's played today, with myriad structures and plans. "Through the strategy and game plan you have these days, it's good to have the attention to detail around that sort of thing," Plowman says.

"So it helps there. Throughout the weeks you can put as much practice as you want into it. But then on game day things can change, and that's where you need a thinking mind."


But while that sharp mathematical mind has been willing, Plowman's body hasn't always been able. Taken at pick three by the Giants in the 2011 draft, Plowman was one of several early GWS picks who never quite made it at the expansion club. As housemates Aidan Corr and Toby Greene established themselves in the GWS team, Plowman languished largely in the NEAFL, and the rehab group, playing just 20 senior games in four years at the Giants.  

Even for someone as laid back as Plowman, demons emerged. "Not being able to string games together, it puts doubt in your mind."

But things are different now. For one he is closer to his family, living in Airport West with his cousin, less than an hour away from parents Elaine and Brendan, who can now easily come to watch him play. Fortunately there's been plenty to watch; Sunday's away game against Fremantle will mark Plowman's 28th straight appearance for the Blues. 

Only last summer, his sixth as an AFL player, did he finally manage to complete a full pre-season. The injury-free run means he's no longer breathing as heavily after games as he did a year ago, allowing him greater consistency in his football, and in turn more confidence. Even when challenged, such as last month by Port Adelaide star Robbie Gray, he doesn't get down on himself, using it as a "learning experience."

If he wants to learn, he's in the right place. It should be no surprise given coach Brendon Bolton's teaching background that the Blues put a premium on a good football education. One example is Plowman picking the brain of Blues goalsneak Matthew Wright for tips on trying how to handle the game's best small and medium forwards – like Gray.

Down back Plowman has some fine mentors too. He gives glowing endorsements of back line coach Dale Amos, and experienced defenders Sam Rowe, Simon White and Kade Simpson, all of whom help educate the young defenders like Plowman, fellow ex-Giant Caleb Marchbank, Harrison Macreadie and Tom Williamson. They've become a tight-knit group, beginning to read each other like second nature. So much so that Plowman tells of a friendly "hate" between the backs, midfielders and forwards.

It's left swingman Jacob Weitering in an interesting spot. "He's on a fine line there," Plowman says, laughing.

"He's up forward, so we've banished him."

At what end of the ground Weitering plays most of his football in the long-term remains somewhat of a mystery. But Plowman looks very settled in his defence. He is one puzzle piece that doesn't look like it'll need to be moved.