Should Ellyse Perry continue playing two sports?

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Is Ellyse Perry good for women’s sport? Of course she is, you say. She is a young, multi-talented, charismatic sportswoman with looks and personality to boot.

Everyone nationwide (and probably worldwide) would love to have the ability to represent their nation in two sports simultaneously.

However, just because she can, should she? Is it a good look for women’s sport in the country, or does it make it look a bit, well, amateurish?

The reason this writer is posing the question is recently, and not for the first time, the 22-year-old Perry had to choose between football and cricket.

On the 19th of January, Perry had to choose between appearing in the W-League football semi with Sydney FC or the T20 Cricket Final with the Sydney Breakers.

Perry chose to stay defender rather than bowler, and played for Sydney FC.

Yet a week later, Perry ditched the Sky Blues to join her Southern Star teammates (including Roar Expert Lisa Sthalekar) in their quest to win the Women’s Cricket World Cup, missing out on playing in the W-League final in the process.

In trying to please everybody, she has pleased nobody. It has shown that the W-League and Sydney FC is more important than Sydney Breakers and domestic cricket, but the most important day of women’s domestic football is cheapened in comparison to international cricket.

Each time Perry had to choose between the two, she inadvertently cheapened the value of the other.

What if Perry had committed to travelling to Cricket World Cup then injured herself in the semi-finals of the soccer? Selectors would have been fuming.

I wonder what Sydney FC think, know that the first thing Perry has done in the off-season is injured herself with the Southern Stars? Surely, if you want to play international cricket, shouldn’t you show yourself to be a good domestic cricketer, not one who might or might not play on a whim?

It reminds me of the days when many footballers played cricket in their off-season, up until the 80s and early 90s. It just seems unprofessional.

It is an antiquated ideal to just be able to turn up and be talented enough to make it, a bit like the early Olympic runners in the 1900s who would have a cigar on the side of the track as they ran.

It’s cute and nice, but doesn’t seem right in the modern day. AFL footballers cannot even play in local grade cricket any more. Surely that is the standard of professionalism that should be shown?

Imagine if Quade Cooper’s boxing debut had fallen on the same week as the opening round of the Super Rugby – the bout simply would not have happened, or Quade might have been a Tri-Colour from Sydney rather than a Red from Queensland.

I don’t agree with the whole Quade and Sonny Bill boxing thing either, why risk injuries and contract value? Did it take away from their proper training?

And how much training is Perry missing out on, given the lack of obvious transferable skills between football and cricket?

There are some obvious counters to this proposed argument. The main one is money. Female domestic cricketers and footballers in Australia are on semi-professional wages at best. The W-League salary cap for each team is less than 20% of the male teams.

I totally agree that it is not fair. Ellyse should absolutely make the most income from her sporting life that she can; if I was in her boat I would do the same if only for the sake of my bank account.

The other argument is that Perry is generating publicity for female sport. It is true, though I would be one pretty annoyed powerbroker if she was talking about her cricket commitments at a Sydney FC press conference.

The thing is, we want to see women’s sport be just as professional, and with as much quality as men, but when you see Perry skipping finals to go play other sports, it is just not a good look in a professional sense for the sports as a whole.

For women’s sport to grow, it needs to shake off the 1970s notion that it is a gimmick, and show the chauvinists that it is a genuine option for the sports lover to watch. Having players skipping games to play other codes definitely does not show that.

Is their solution to this Perry-plexing conundrum? The ideal is to create another Ellyse Perry, and have one for bowling, one for dribbling. However, cloning is not yet viable.

Perry is a star, but she needs to be a star for one sport, and be identified with one sport. So do some of the other talents, from both football and cricket, and any other female code trying to breathe in the mainstream sports media.

Create some household names, like Liz Ellis and Catherine Cox did for Netball, and Lauren Jackson for the WNBL.

Use these players to create interest in the game, and get people to have a look. Grow the sport into fully professional codes over time. Keep people hooked with the skills of the participants, not the fact one is a quality athlete who can play another sport as well.