Monday, February 18, 2013

Ellyse Perry: The Heart of Australia.

Ellyse Alexandra Perry (born 3 November 1990) is an Australian sportswoman who made her debut for both the Australian cricket and football (soccer) teams at the age of 16. She played her first cricket international in July 2007 before earning her first football cap for Australia a month later. Perry is the youngest person, male or female, to represent Australia in cricket and the first Australian woman to have appeared in both cricket and association football World Cups.

Perry was born in Wahroonga. She went to primary school at Arden Anglican School in Beecroft Sydney. She also attended Pymble Ladies College, completing year 12 in 2008 with the title of Sports Captain, Athletics Captain and Cricket Captain. She is currently studying economics and social sciences at the University of Sydney. Ellyse is a regular on the Triple J breakfast show with Tom Ballard and Alex Dyson to present her segment "Perry Good Sports Woman".

An international in both cricket and football, the 22-year-old also somehow manages to find time to present shows on radio and television as well as studying for an economics and social sciences degree.

Australia had been looking for a replacement for fast bowler Cathryn Fitzpatrick, who retired in March 2007, and Perry settled into the role. For a time that was uncertain - as she also had the alluring prospect of a long-term career in soccer and was representing the Matildas when the call-up to the national cricket side came. Her future in cricket had been secured when she was in the group of the first women cricketers to be handed contracts by Cricket Australia in 2008.

She made her Test debut, against England, in the same year, and also made headlines when her unbeaten 29, which included a massive straight six, and four wickets lead Australia to a 21-run win over England in a Twenty20 at the MCG. As her career has progressed, it is her bowling that has proved her stronger suit, and she picked up her maiden five-wicket haul in an ODI against New Zealand in February 2010. Three months later, she was Australia's leading wicket-taker at the Women's World Twenty20 in the Caribbean, and it was no surprise when she was named Player of the Match in the final: her three cheap wickets helped restrict New Zealand's run chase and crown Australia world champions in the format.

Throw in the girl-next-door looks, a permanent smile and a knack for being word perfect in front of the media and it is clear why Perry is one of the most famous women in Australia.

"I've been really fortunate that both cricket and soccer have been receptive to my situation and also so supportive of it," the fast bowler from Sydney told BBC Sport.

"I just always went along with the flow. So far it's worked out fairly well and I'm really fortunate to be in that position, but in a lot of ways that's because of the things other people have done to support me."

At 16, Perry became the youngest person - male or female - to represent Australia at cricket.  Within a month, she also made her bow for the Matildas, Australia's women's football team.

A central defender, Perry was part of the squad that reached the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup, scoring in their 3-1 defeat by Sweden.

But it is in cricket where she has earned most success. With a classic action that generates genuine pace, Perry is already an Ashes and double World Twenty20 winner, and looks set to recover from an ankle injury in time for Sunday's World Cup final against West Indies.

The balancing act between cricket and football has not always been straightforward, though.

Last year, a clash between the domestic football finals and Australia's one-day series with New Zealand led to Perry's Canberra United coach giving her an ultimatum between the two sports.

Perry simply found another football club.

Even that didn't entirely solve the problem. Shortly before leaving for the World Cup in India, Perry was faced with the dilemma of new football club Sydney FC's W-League semi-final and New South Wales's Twenty20 final being on the same day. On that occasion, she chose football.

With the prospect of these decisions recurring, Perry is realistic about the possibility of one day having to make the ultimate choice between the two sports. However, with a maturity that has perhaps come from years of fielding the same question, she can see positives in being forced to make that call.
"What's exciting about the landscape of not only women's cricket and soccer, but also women's sport in general around the world is that it's evolving and developing, becoming more professional and more demanding of our time," said Perry.

"If that means that it's not possible to play both then I see that as a good thing. But I probably consciously made the decision not to think too much about that until it's absolutely necessary."

On 29 May 2012 it was reported in the AGE newspaper that Heather Reid, the chief executive of her football club Canberra United FC, had given Perry an ultimatum to choose between football and cricket. On 5 September 2012, Perry signed with Sydney FC, with Sydney FC coach Alen Stajcic stating he was prepared to work with NSW Breakers coach Joanne Broadbent to allow Perry to play both sports.

However, the cooperation between Sydney FC and NSW Breakers, to enable Perry to play both sports, came to a head when it was reported on 15 January 2013 that Sydney FC's W-League semi-final was scheduled for the same day as the NSW Breakers' Twenty20 final. A few days later, Perry's decision was to play in the football semi-final, rather than the Twenty20 cricket final, both of which were to be played on 19 January 2013.

 NSW Breakers won their cricket final, and Sydney too won their football semi-final, but the following weekend for the W-League football Grand Final Perry declined to play for Sydney, opting instead to play for Australia in a warm-up game for the Cricket World Cup in India.

While Perry is relaxed about any big decisions that could lie in the future, both Cricket Australia and the Football Federation Australia would be loath to lose such a star.