Few in the world of sport can match the achievements of Ellyse Perry. A dual international having represented Australia with distinction at both football and cricket, the talented youngster even fronts her own television programme – and all this before her 20th birthday.
It is the kind of resume that would be the envy of many an elite sportsperson and it may soon get even better for the prodigiously talented Sydneysider. The coming two years could easily see Perry make a splash for her country at both the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup™ and the 2012 Olympic Games.
Far from being just a bit player, Perry is a major contributor to her respective national teams. A goal after just 90 seconds on her Matildas’ debut as a precocious 16-year-old in a Beijing Olympic Games qualifier announced the arrival of a rare talent in the most emphatic fashion. Since then national team coach Tom Sermanni has selected the full-back and sometime midfielder whenever she has been available, including at the 2008 AFC Asian Women’s Cup. Similarly Perry is a key member of the Australia cricket side and with all-round ability in each facet of the game, she played a pivotal role in her team claiming the recent Twenty-20 Women’s World Cup.
On a number of occasions commitments to the two sports have overlapped, most notably the cricket schedule saw the 19-year-old miss last year’s qualifiers for the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, and the Matildas historic win in June’s AFC Asian Women’s Cup. Contrary to modern convention, Perry has not been forced to make a decision between the two sports, a situation she hopes will remain unchanged, as it has done over the past three years. “I try to play both sports as much as possible,” she said. “I am very lucky that both cricket and football are very supportive to that end."
Not that such commitment comes without challenges. One weekend involved playing two cricket matches, plus turning out for her W-League club Canberra United, all during the course of a whirlwind 72 hours. Such a schedule would dent the performance of most but the indefatigable Perry continued to shine. Indeed such was her consistency during the W-League campaign that Perry was named joint winner of the league’s Young Player of the Year award.
Perhaps it is of little surprise that this rare talent is performing with such distinction. Father Mark, represented Australia at squash, and played cricket for the state, while mother Kathy partook in elite competition swimming. “I was one of those kids in the backyard that was always playing sport,” said Perry. “I guess I was a big tom-boy. My parents come from a sporting background, so we are a pretty active family, with sport an important part of both my and our family life.
The world stage
In a little under 12 months, Perry will be hoping to join her team-mates at the 2010 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Three years ago the Matildas achieved breakthrough success with qualification for the quarter-finals in China. Now having qualified as Asian champions - the first male or female Australian team to do so - competition for places is sure to be fierce. “I would love to be a part of that but I think the squad is really strong at the moment and there is a lot of competition which is fantastic," says the willowy teenager. "It should be a really exciting 12 months in the lead-up to the World Cup to see how the squad goes and how far we can progress.”
Before then however there is a hectic domestic football and cricket schedule, not to mention international commitments...and that is just in the sporting arena. Away from the field Perry spends her time at university studying economics and social sciences, yet still makes time to perform some charity work.
Recently, the affable teen has fronted a television program focussed on grassroots football in Australia. It has been a sharp but enjoyable learning experience for Perry who is more used to being in front of the camera, than behind it. “I had a really great time and it is very different to anything I have done before, and though initially I felt like a fish out of water I certainly relished the opportunity,” she said. “I definitely have a new appreciation for the job of the media. It was also great to meet so many young talented players and also see how football is so important and affects the life of so many people.”