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Cricket takes on AFL in recruiting battle

By Greg Buckle,

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    Sydney’s Adam Goodes, Hawthorn’s Luke Hodge and Geelong’s Jimmy Bartel are the AFL superstars who bring fans through the gates.

    Between them they boast four premierships, three Brownlows and a Norm Smith Medal.

    But the mention of their names, along with others such as Brisbane Lions’ triple premiership hero Jonathan Brown, causes heartache at Cricket Australia.

    Like so many other talented schoolboy athletes, they chose Australian rules football over cricket.

    Stephen Coniglio, who won the Larke Medal this week as the best player at the national Under-18 championships as captain of Western Australia, could be going down the same path.

    The WA Under-17 cricket representative is yet to make a call on whether to nominate for the AFL draft in November, where he’s a likely top-three pick headed for 2012 debutants Greater Western Sydney.

    “I haven’t made a decision on anything yet,” the 17-year-old midfielder said this week in Melbourne.

    “I’ll wait until after the carnival to have a think about that.

    “It’s a fantastic opportunity with footy and there’s opportunities in cricket to get the same.

    “It will definitely be the opportunities and the one which I enjoy most, nothing like money or anything.”

    Coniglio says the riches of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 cricket league won’t sway him.

    “It will just be what I enjoy and what I can see myself being the best player at,” Coniglio added.

    Cricket hasn’t been bowled over every time a multi-talented athlete bobs up.

    Victorian teenager Alex Keath played against the touring England side at the MCG last summer after turning his back on AFL club Gold Coast.

    Mitch Marsh, 19, represented Western Australia in the under-18 football championships before pursuing a cricket career with the Warriors alongside brother Shaun.

    Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA) chief executive Paul Marsh says the issue has been a hot topic in cricket circles for several years, and the mood is becoming more optimistic.

    “In 2005 we felt we couldn’t compete with the AFL,” Marsh said.

    “This debate was a very hot debate in cricket five or six years ago and it was always the southern states who felt they were losing out.

    “There was almost resignation that cricket could not compete but with the rise of Twenty20, we stand a far better chance now than we did six or seven years ago.

    “The total package we need to offer these kids is what’s important.

    “Money, support services, the overall professionalism is all part of it.”

    Marsh says footballers can get drafted as teenagers and within a year be playing in front of crowds of 80,000 or more.

    Previously in Australia cricket, a player generally had to be in the national side before achieving public and media recognition and having the chance to make good money playing overseas.

    Now those opportunities are available at state level through T20, where the top two Australian teams contest the lucrative Champions League in India.

    State-squad members will put themselves in the shop window in the revamped eight-team, city-based Big Bash League T20 in December and January.

    With several IPL teams coached by Australians, the interest in BBL players is high. The flow-on effect is helping Australian cricket’s attractiveness to young athletes, Marsh says.

    “We are starting to win some of these battles,” Marsh said.

    “At the elite level, Twenty20 has opened up opportunities for players to play more overseas and earn more money.

    “Overseas opportunities is a big part of it, through the Indian Premier League.

    “The big change is you don’t need to be an Australian player to reap some of these benefits.”

    Marsh says salaries, overseas opportunities and how the players are treated by the relative sports are key aspects.

    “Cricket has traditionally been a harder road to hoe for athletes,” he said.

    “You don’t have to make the national team to get the recognition given to athletes in other sports like the AFL.”

    While Coniglio claims to be still deciding between cricket and football, he has brushed off a report he’s considering staying out of the draft to avoid playing for GWS.

    The Kevin Sheedy-coached AFL newcomers have nine of the first 15 picks, including the top three.

    “No, I wouldn’t have any concerns. It’s a new club, it’s exciting,” the 182cm, 76kg midfielder said.

    Coniglio announced himself as a star of the future when he kicked four goals for Swan Districts in last year’s WAFL grand final. He was shaded for best-afield honours by Andrew Krakouer who’s now with Collingwood.

    The teenager has been surprised by the media exposure he has received.

    “(But) if you’re going to be a good player in the future, you have to deal with that,” he said.

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    The Crowd Says (14)

    • July 9th 2011 @ 11:29am
      brendan said | July 9th 2011 @ 11:29am | ! Report

      Coniglio would be mad to choose footy over cricket.If he is the larke medallist he must be a good cricketer.With the indian twenty twenty league a champion cricketer can play on big money till his late thirties(Andrew Symonds and Adam Gilchrist) after playing state and international cricket.Cricket also doesnt seem to have many injured old blokes like footy does.I love both sports but playing for your home state followed by international duties sure beats being drafted as a kid half way across the country.I believe we need to change the draft rules to ensure kids can stay home at the start of there afl careers.

    • July 9th 2011 @ 11:59am
      Ian Whitchurch said | July 9th 2011 @ 11:59am | ! Report

      Brendan,

      I’m going to assume Coniglio can count.

      There are 25 cricketers with Cricket Australia contracts.

      Eleven Australians earned less than $100 000 in the IPL auction. Four earned between $100 and $200 000. Seventeen earned between $100 000 and $1m. David Hussey got $1.4m.

      The AFL/AFLPA Collective Bargaining Agreement is here.

      http://aflpa.com.au/sites/all/files/AFLPA_AFL_CBA_2007_2011_FINAL.pdf

      The 2011 per-team salary cap is AUD8.21m, plus a $1m “soft cap” in marketing payments and veteran player exemptions . The IPL per team salary cap is allegedly USD9m. There are strong ‘anti-import’ provisions in the IPL, and many more AFL sides than IPL sides.

      The 2011 AFL base payment for a footballer is $66 900, plus $2900 per match. The base IPL contract is $20 000.

      Assuming Coniglio becomes on of the hundreds of journeyman footballers who play fifteen matches a season on minimum wage, he therefore nets more than $100 000 a year, or more than all but 50 or so cricketers.

      According to this article, http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/afl-clubs-are-sharing-the-bucks/story-fn6bmfa2-1226017331294 , 25 AFL players earn more than $500 000.

      Financially, the top end is better in cricket. But if you dont get that central contract, or that IPL payday, then the money in the AFL is much, much more reliable.

      This is what a code can do when it regularly gets 25 000 people to games, week in week out.

      • July 9th 2011 @ 1:14pm
        brendan said | July 9th 2011 @ 1:14pm | ! Report

        Your statistics are true Ian but Coniglio must be a gun cricketer to even think about it .At his age he has about 15 -20 seasons of cricket in front of him in footy i think the average Afl career is about 5 yrs.Fair enough he is a champion and may play twice that or more but equally he may not.If any young player is good enough to consider either sport i think the long term injury factor in footy should be a factor.In the article it mentions Alex Keath and Mitch Marsh(I think he is Geoff Marsh’s son)so obviously there is a long term future in cricket for talented juniors.County Cricket also provides an additional income for up and coming players at various levels.Use MIitch Thorp as an example a first round draft pick by Hawthorn in 07 gone from the Afl scene like many after a few seasons so after tax what did he make two – three hundred thosand that could be Coniglios fate.

      • July 9th 2011 @ 1:48pm
        brendan said | July 9th 2011 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

        Another comment Ian you are very arrogant (I assume Coniglio can count) .It was you that quoted some web site too me regarding West Coach finishing third in 07 when they lost both finals and finished fifth.If you only want to hear your own views send yourself a message.The point of the article in my humble opinion was that cricket now poses a threat to Afl ‘s hold on the most talented young sportsmen .I enjoy exchanging views but in future i will ignore your comments .

    • Roar Guru

      July 9th 2011 @ 12:40pm
      The Cattery said | July 9th 2011 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

      Ian sums it up pretty well.

      If you’re coming in to an AFL club as a first year 18 year old, you can be earning $100,000 per annum; and by the time your third year comes along, as a 20 year old, you can be knocking on the door of the average annual salary of around $250,000 – which will only be bettered by the very top Australia cricketers (most of whom will be aged over 25).

      However, it is also true that you can remain a professional crickert into your late 30s, on average, six or seven years longer than you will remain a professional footballer.

      The other factor is the unique situation we have with the two new Northern teams over the next couple of years – it’s possible that some players might choose cricket rather than risk ending up, say, at GWS – but I’d say that’s a relatively minor factor.

    • July 9th 2011 @ 1:40pm
      jamesb said | July 9th 2011 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

      from a cricketing point of view, you look at the southern states in WA, SA and VIC, it has been a struggle to produce test cricketers in recent years.

      its been a helluva long time since Victoria produce an outstanding batsman. The last time victoria has produce a batsman of test quality is brad hodge, and he debuted in the mid nineties, nearly 20 years ago.

      Western Australia has struggled in the last 10 years. its been a barren time for them since the days of katich, martyn, langer, gilchrist, or even brad hogg.

      South australia has been terrible full stop. Since the nineties with the likes of dizzy gillespie, lehmann and blewett, its been lean pickings.

      I can see where cricket is coming from in regards to 20/twenty cricket. It gives Cricket an opportunity to say to a young promising cricketer, that, on one form, the prestige of representing your country at test level, and the other form, 20/ twenty where you could a very decent living.

      Cricket in this country does need something to spark interest, and not be dominated by the football codes. And with AFLs big tv deal, cricket better start thinking and working, or cricket will be left as a backwater sport

      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2011 @ 1:46pm
        The Cattery said | July 9th 2011 @ 1:46pm | ! Report

        I note that Victoria has won two of the last three Sheffield Shields – that seems pretty good going – they must be doing something right to achieve that.

    • July 9th 2011 @ 2:45pm
      Swampy said | July 9th 2011 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

      More often than not the choice between cricket and Footy has been made not so much on starting salary but more on future salary. Only 11 players play for Australia at any one time. And then at reserve (shield) level there are 6 teams of another 11 players. So basically, at any one time, there are 77 players getting a game. Compare that to AFL/NRL/Super Rugby where there is 38 teams (I think) with around 650 first team spots.
      Even if you are a gun junior it doesn’t mean you are going to make it in cricket.
      If you are gun junior in Footy you have so much more chance at making the grade.

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      • Roar Guru

        July 9th 2011 @ 2:51pm
        The Cattery said | July 9th 2011 @ 2:51pm | ! Report

        Swampy
        The AFL on its own will have 396 starting spots from next season, which means around 800 professional contracts in total.

        If you add in NRL and Super Rugby, you’re talking about another 450 professional contracts (minimum).

        That sort of strengthens the point you’re making.

    • July 9th 2011 @ 3:05pm
      Queensland's game is rugby league said | July 9th 2011 @ 3:05pm | ! Report

      Not all people want to spend the bulk of the year away from their family. The AFL is a good option for family-orientated men.

      • July 10th 2011 @ 7:46pm
        Ian Whitchurch said | July 10th 2011 @ 7:46pm | ! Report

        Not quite – the AFL has a draft, and the odds are therefore if you want to play AFL you’ll be playing it a long way from home. A constant theme of the AFL is ‘player X is homesick, so he’ll want a trade’

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