This article was published on 13 February, 2018
Toiling as a landscaper in searing summer conditions for five days a week would be enough work for any normal person.
However, Carlton midfielder Natalie Plane finds herself putting down the tools at the end of each day to head to multiple training sessions as she juggles a cricket and football career.
Currently working as a full-time, second-year apprentice, Plane doesn’t let the demands of her sporting ambitions get in the way of her work away from the field.
“I enjoy being outdoors and landscaping was always one of the jobs I grew up wanting to do,” Plane told AFLPlayers.com.au.
“It’s pretty cool to learn how to build decks, pave and be outside all day. Landscaping is physical work, so I wouldn’t go and lift something extremely heavy that I know I’d hurt myself lifting. I take care so I know that it won’t affect my sport.”
Plane found her love for football after watching one of the many women’s AFL exhibition games that preluded the AFLW competition.
“I was playing soccer at the time when I saw one of the Melbourne and Western Bulldogs exhibition games on TV,” Plane said.
“After watching it, I said maybe I’ll give football a shot because it looks really cool. I went down to Seaford to train with the Women’s VFL team and after one training session I knew that I had to play football.”
When she’s not pulling on the boots for Carlton, Plane is also a regular fixture in the Melbourne Renegades WBBL team.
Even though the intricacies between football and cricket are vastly different, Plane believes that both sports are very similar in how they develop their training programs.
“I don’t think one’s harder than the other. Football and cricket are pretty similar in the fact that you have to get to training earlier if you want to work on improving your game and that there’s also a lot of emphasis on recovery and injury prevention.”
Apart from the structural setup and rehabilitation programs, football differs through the increased focus on physical contact and increasing fitness levels during training.
“Apart from the skills we practise, one of the differences between football and cricket is that we get more rest in between drills. For football training, you have to do a lot more running and it’s a lot more physical on the body,” Plane said.
One of the factors that has helped the 21-year-old continue her hectic work and sporting schedule is the collaboration between Carlton and Renegades fitness staff, who regularly meet to ensure there is an even spread of training between the two sports.
And that collaborative approach ultimately helps Plane manage herself.
“I had both the strength and conditioning coaches from cricket and footy meet up together to make sure that I wasn’t overloading. I was still keeping up all my skill work without thrashing my body and exhausting myself out. They want the best from you, so they don’t really want to run you into the ground.”
Delving into her personal life, Plane is a proud indigenous woman from Victoria.
One of the driving inspirations to be a sportswoman came from Indigenous and Australian sporting hero, Cathy Freeman.
Although being only four at the time, Plane says revisiting Freeman’s heroic efforts at the 2000 Sydney Olympics at a later age helped her understand what impact a successful Indigenous athlete could have on fellow Indigenous people.
“Growing up, I always looked up to Cathy Freeman and I was in awe of her,” Plane explained.
“When she ran the 400 and won it, back then I couldn’t really understand it but reflecting back on it now, I can see how powerful that moment was on me. Being an Indigenous person and having been lucky enough to play sport at a professional level, I hope that I can have an impact like Cathy Freeman did on me. That would be the ultimate goal in my life.”
Drawing on her desire to be a role model, Plane undertook a leadership opportunity at the 2017 National Diversity championships in Byron bay last year, which saw her coach the under-19s girls Indigenous kick start team.
Having the ability to coach and have a positive effect on Indigenous children has inspired Pain to gain further roles of the same calibre.
“Some of the girls in my team came up to me and said I had an impact on their life or they were grateful that they met me,” Plane added.
“I feel that I was lucky that they gave me more than what I gave them. I’d love any opportunity that I get where I can impact on not only Indigenous kids but non-Indigenous kids as well.”
As she focuses on her second AFLW season, Plane only has redemption on her mind.
After injuring her ankle in the first 22 minutes of the AFLW’s inaugural game last year, Plane is raring at the chance to prove her worth as a footballer.
“It was shattering hurting myself in round one last year,” Plane said.
“At the time I thought that I had just rolled it and it would be fine. When I found out that I had obviously done something a bit more serious, it was shattering. I had to have two surgeries on my ankle and it took six months to get back into reasonable shape.
“This year, I’m hungry.”
The ‘Triple Threat’ series is an initiative of the partnership between the AFL Players’ Association and La Trobe University. Stay tuned as La Trobe sports journalism students help tell the stories of some of the game’s most talented athletes.