Wil Parker, the 18-year-old legspinner, has opted for a professional cricket career over Australian Rules Football by signing a full contract with Victoria for the 2020-21 season.
Parker made his first-class debut late last summer and impressed in his first outing at the SCG where he claimed four wickets to help Victoria to victory.
He is also a talented footballer, who was tipped as a top-20 pick in the AFL draft and had earned interest from some clubs, so he had a decision to make as to which sport he would pursue at the professional level. The lack of football being played in age-group competitions due to Covid-19, which left Parker unable to showcase his ability, was a big part in the process.
"It was a very hard decision, one I weighed up for a long time, I love both sports," Parker said. "I had to choose one eventually. Especially in these circumstances with Covid-19 I couldn't pass it up. There's been no footy on so it didn't give me the chance to see where I'm at and how good I am. Having the experience last year in cricket it gave me a good idea that I'm a chance to make it in cricket rather than hedge by bets in footy.
"If I'd had the chance to play footy I could have been in a totally difference position at the moment, I could have had a great season and made the draft, but in the current circumstances I didn't feel confident going for the draft and had the opportunity for cricket."
Parker began as a medium-pacer before a back injury forced him to turn to spin - "I took up legspin for fun and it came out alright," he said - and he has been mentored by former Australia legspinner Jim Higgs in club cricket.
"Wil is a talented athlete and we're excited he's chosen to pursue cricket," Cricket Victoria's general manager of cricket Shaun Graf said. "He gave us a glimpse of what he's got to offer in his two Shield games last season, we believe he's got the skill and temperament to succeed in what is a difficult cricketing artform. His initial experiences last season will hopefully give him some added confidence moving forward in his career."
Elsewhere on Victoria's contract list their pace-bowling resources have taken a hit with Chris Tremain moving to New South Wales which follows the departure of Peter Siddle to Tasmania. Andrew Fekete has also retired meaning a lot will be on the shoulders of Scott Boland, Will Sutherland and James Pattinson when the latter is not on Australia duty.
"'[Chris] had a taste of first-class cricket in New South Wales but he really established himself as one of the leading fast bowlers in Shield cricket with us over the last few years," Graf said."That form has seen him go very close to Australian Test selection on a number of occasions, hopefully he achieves that ambition one day. He has been a consistent performer and a good team person to have around our group during the several seasons he was with us.
"While we're disappointed to see him go, it was a contract that gave him long term security while fulfilling a desire to return home to NSW to be closer to his family."
Aaron Ayre, Jackson Coleman, Jake Reed, Eamonn Vines were also not offered contracts for the next season. Peter Handscomb and Marcus Harris have returned to the Victoria books after losing their Cricket Australia deals.
Victoria are still without a coach for their men's set-up after Lachlan Stevens, who took temporary charge last year when Andrew McDonald became Justin Langer's assistant, took on the head coach role with the women's team.
Victorian Men's squad Scott Boland, Xavier Crone, Travis Dean, Zak Evans, Aaron Finch*, Jake Fraser-McGurk, Sebastian Gotch, Peter Handscomb, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Mackenzie Harvey, Jon Holland, Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell*, Jonathan Merlo, Tom O'Connell, Wil Parker, James Pattinson*, Mitch Perry, Will Pucovski, Matthew Short, Will Sutherland
Rookies Brody Couch, Sam Elliott, Tom Jackson, Cameron McClure, Todd Murphy, Patrick Rowe