A dual international in the making
At an age when teenagers start thinking about what to do with their lives Ellyse Perry probably needs to think of what not to do. Perry, 16, is not only likely to be the youngest Australian player if she appears against New Zealand in the Top End Series, which starts on Thursday, but also perhaps the youngest double international when she represents the Australian soccer team in Hong Kong soon after the series.
A long professional career playing both cricket and soccer is something her cricket and soccer coaches know she may not be able to have. "Ellyse knows she will have to make a decision somewhere down the track," Lisa Keightley, the Australian women's cricket coach, told The Age. "Does cricket have as big a drawcard as soccer? I'm not too sure. From when I started playing to now, it's worlds apart."
In cricket Perry is considered a genuine all-round prospect and toured New Zealand with the Australian Under-23 team earlier this year. She was picked with the intent to fill the huge gap following the fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick's retirement.
"She's definitely capable of playing senior international football and cricket, so there probably will come a point in time when she won't be able to do both," Alen Stajcic, the New South Wales Sapphires coach, said. "I think women's football offers a lot in terms of what girls can do now, and definitely down the track."
But both coaches are careful not to put any pressure on Perry to make a choice. "We really haven't put any pressure on her at the moment, and neither has cricket," Stajcic said. "We're all being fairly flexible and letting her cope with both. It's difficult, and I don't know if it can last forever."
Keightley felt the team was lucky she could combine both sports. "She's getting her fitness at soccer, so we concentrate on more skill-based activities for her," Keightley said. "She still wishes to continue both, and I feel it's her decision. Good luck to her, she's a very talented sportswoman, and she's got fantastic parents who drive her around and support her away from sport."
Perry herself isn't too worried right now. "At the moment, I'm really lucky I can still play both and I have supportive people around me that allow me to play both sports," she said. "While I can, I sort of think, why not?
"I think it's really important, especially at my age, to have balance. I really enjoy doing both, and that makes it easy to fit in." Perry said it was hard to pick a favourite. Australia play New Zealand in five ODIs and one Twenty20 at Darwin from Thursday.