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Who are our greatest multiple sport athletes?

Nonu is ahead of SBW in the race for the 12 jersey. (AP Photo/Ross Land)
Roar Guru
3rd November, 2011
69
2429 Reads

Roosters captain Braith Anasta made his debut in a professional golf tournament this weekend, prompting me to mull over exactly who are the greatest, multiple sport professionals.

Here are my picks.

Sav Rocca
When Saverio Rocca retired from Aussie Rules, he left a legacy that was worth remembering. With 748 goals, Rocca sits 13th on the VFL/AFL’s all-time highest goalkicking records from 257 games for Collingwood and North Melbourne.

He’s been the top goalkicker for the Kangaroos three times, and seven times for the Magpies.

But it would be his trademark accuracy from long-range which would see Rocca make the move to the USA’s National Football League. Rest assured, it was not an easy road for Rocca to become a punter.

However, in 2007 he successfully became the oldest rookie in NFL history when he was recruited by the Philadelphia Eagles.

In 2010, the Eagles let him go, but he was quickly snapped up by the Washington Redskins, who were in desperate need of his 42 yard punt average, which continues to improve each season.

Rocca edges out fellow Australian NFL convert Ben Graham simply because Rocca has managed to stay in the NFL, something Graham could not do, despite his appearance in Super Bowl XLIII.

Karmichael Hunt
Hunt was a prodigious talent for the Brisbane Broncos when he debuted in 2004, becoming the team’s leading try-scorer that year. Tall, fast and strong, Hunt played in the backs and halves during his 125 games with the club, which included winning the 2006 NRL Premiership.

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He won four State of Origin series’ with Queensland in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 and represented the Australian Kangaroos on 11 occasions.

Mid 2009, his decision to sign with AFL club Gold Coast Suns sent shockwaves through the NRL.

But before he made the switch to Aussie Rules, Hunt played in 15 matches for French rugby union side Biarritz Olympique, even making the Heineken Cup final. Since playing Aussie Rules in 2010, Hunt has been a solid performer playing as a defender and midfielder.

He may not have reached his potential in AFL just yet, but the fact that he has successfully played three different sports within the space of a few years is worth mentioning.

Ellyse Perry
She may be the youngest on the list, but Ellyse Perry has already made an impression on sports fans with her skills on different fields. Her national representative career began at just 16 in football and 17 in cricket.

She has played in the World Cups of both sports.

Today, at just 20 years of age, the all-rounder has already represented Australia in 2 Tests, 39 One-Day Internationals, and 14 Twenty20 International matches, while also playing in the national cricket comp for NSW.

In football Perry has earned 18 appearances for the Matildas so far. Playing as a defender with a lethal left boot, domestically she currently plays for Canberra United in the W-League.

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Her career may not yet be complete, but for now it’s hard not to give credit to the achievements of this incredible, multi-talented sportswoman.

Melissa Ruscoe
Probably one of the lesser known names on the list, Ruscoe’s resume deserves close attention.

Between 1994 and 2000, Ruscoe has played and captained New Zealand’s national teams in football, rugby union and rugby sevens. Capped 23 times for the Football Ferns from the age of 16, Ruscoe has also played for the Black Ferns since 2004 and been named New Zealand’s Women’s Player of the Year in 2005.

She has won the Churchill Cup, the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2006 and captained the winning World Cup side in 2010.

Now, tell me she’s not a name worth mentioning.

Sonny Bill Williams
Beginning his rugby league career at the Canterbury Bulldogs in 2004, at just 18 years of age Williams quickly built a large fan base thanks to his rampaging runs, offloads and of course those infamous shoulder charges. With the Bulldogs he won the 2004 NRL Premiership and played a total of 74 games for the club until 2008 when he switched to rugby union.

After a stint at Toulon where his team were runners-up in the European Challenge Cup, Williams then helped the Crusaders reach the Super Rugby Grand Final.

He has represented New Zealand in both rugby league and rugby union, and was a part of the 2011 Rugby World Cup winning side. Williams’ large frame has also seen the rugby star try his hand as a professional boxer in the heavyweight division, where he remains undefeated from four bouts.

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Some love him, more hate him, but you can’t deny it takes something special to achieve what SBW has, in three different sports.

Tadhg Kennelly
Kennelly’s professional career playing Gaelic football and Aussie Rules has earned the speedy Irishman fans all around the world. Leaving Ireland for a shot in the AFL, Kennelly made his debut for the Sydney Swans in 2001.

Slowly but surely, his razzle-dazzle display as a defender made him a favourite among AFL fans, and by 2003 he was an integral part of the Sydney team. He played for Sydney in the 2005 and 2006 AFL Grand Finals, with the 2005 victory making him the first man from the Emerald Isle to win a premiership. In 2009, the boy from Kerry fulfilled a dream of his by winning an All-Ireland Senior Football Championship.

He remains the only player to have won both the AFL Premiership and All-Ireland Championship. To add to his remarkable accomplishments in two sports, Kennelly was the first player from the AFL to play for Ireland in the International Rules Series. He played in the 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2010 Tests and is also competing in the current Series.

After 197 appearances for the Swans, 2011 marked the end of Kennelly’s tenure in AFL. But he takes his place as the most influential Gaelic/AFL footballer of the modern era.

Wendell Sailor
With his playing career spanning almost twenty years, Sailor has cemented his place as a legend in rugby league and rugby union. In rugby league he’s represented Queensland in Origin, won three premierships with the Brisbane Broncos, and earned 19 caps for Australia. In rugby union he played four seasons with the Queensland Reds and played in 37 matches for the Wallabies, including the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final.

The flamboyant Queenslander belongs on this list. Enough said.

Lote Tuqiri
Like Sailor, Tuqiri has had a long and magnificent career in rugby league and rugby union. Also starting with the Brisbane Broncos, Tuqiri and Sailor were a formidable force together on the wing.

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Before he switched to rugby union, Tuqiri represented Queensland, Fiji and Australia in rugby league. As a rugger the dreadlocked winger truly shined.

A regular try-scorer and hard tackler, he played six seasons with the NSW Waratahs where he was noticed by Australian selectors, and picked to play for the Wallabies. Playing a whopping 67 times in the green and gold, he scored a try in the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final and played for the Wallabies again in the 2007 Rugby World Cup scoring the only try in their quarter final defeat.

Since 2010 injury has plagued Tuqiri’s return to rugby league with the Wests Tigers, but even at 32, he seems to have no intention of slowing down.

Dally Messenger
A stocky man with a Gallen-like appearance, Messenger began his career as a footballer playing rugby union in 1900, with his skills on the park wowing supporters. A seasoned union player at the time, Messenger helped the development of NSW Rugby Football League in 1907, when he became the biggest Australian name to switch codes.

He represented NSW in rugby union and twice played for the Wallabies. In rugby league he amassed 48 appearances with Easts, represented NSW and Queensland, Australia and New Zealand. Messenger was loved in Australia and abroad, particularly in northern England where rugby league was born.

The father of rugby league in Australia, Messenger gets to the top of the list not through his number of test caps, but because of his influence in establishing one of Australia’s most popular professional sports.

There must be plenty of other contenders, but I cannot list them all.

These are my picks. Now what are yours?

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