Thu, May 29, 2008 - Page 18 News List

FEATURE: Teen stars at cricket and soccer

STAR PLAYER Elysse Perry is reluctant to choose between the two sports, but has already been touted as the face of next year's Women's Cricket World Cup

AP , SYDNEY

Australia's Elysse Perry, left, battles for the ball during a friendly international against Canada in Sydney on May 20. The final year student at Pymble Ladies College in Sydney plays cricket and soccer for Australia's national teams.

PHOTO: AP

In one respect, 17-year-old Elysse Perry is like many other teens her age, always having to deal with a messy, cluttered bedroom.

“It’s a bit of an atrocity at the moment, as my mom reminds me every second day,” Perry says, laughing.

The year 12 student at Pymble Ladies College in Sydney has an excuse for the untidy state of affairs — she’s playing both cricket and soccer for Australia’s national teams.

She’ll be on the field in Hanoi, Vietnam, today for the Australian “Matildas” soccer team when they play Taiwan in the Women’s Asian Cup.

In her first match for Australia, the defender scored the opening goal in an 8-1 win over Hong Kong. Last Friday in Australia’s 2-1 win over Canada, Perry made several dangerous forays on the right wing and provided the cross for her team’s eventual winning goal.

In cricket, Perry has played 13 limited-overs internationals, one Test match and two Twenty20 matches for the “Southern Stars.” When she made her international debut at 16, she became the youngest player to appear for a senior Australian cricket team.

Next March, she’s nearly a certainty to be playing for the national team when the Women’s Cricket World Cup comes to Australia.

Media reports have suggested the allrounder will be the promotional face for the tournament.

“Obviously it’s a big year for women’s cricket,” Perry said. “It would be great to have a bit of publicity for the sport, induce a bit of public interest.”

That tournament could conflict with the start of her first year of university — she’s unsure of where she’ll go or what she might study. This year, she’s doing the best she can to keep her grades up at school, getting help along the way.

“I have a very supportive school,” Perry said after taking the afternoon off from soccer training to attend classes. “Sometime when I’m away, I do some correspondence work by e-mail, and I’m always in touch with my teachers.”

Perry said her upbringing gave her a variety of sporting choices.

“Being a kid in Australia, everyone sort of mucks around in the back yard, and our family was always sports-oriented,” Perry said.

“I started playing cricket and soccer about six or seven and played touch football and athletics at school, then tennis and golf.”

If push came to shove, Perry is not sure which way she’d go with her two major sports.

“Right now, I think they’re on a level playing field ... no pun intended!” Perry says. “I am enjoying both, and want to for as long as I can. Maybe in the future if someone taps me on the shoulder and says ‘It’s time you make a decision,’ then I’ll make my choice.”

Her father, Mark, a schoolteacher, and mother Kathy, a doctor, joined her in those backyard sporting pursuits when she was younger.

“Sports has always been a part of my life,” adds Perry. “I did it for enjoyment, and cricket and soccer progressed to a level where I am quite high up.”

Tom Sermanni, coach of the Australian women’s soccer team, agrees.

“I think the difference between us and cricket is that she is a star in cricket — I would say she’s probably their major player,” Sermanni said.

“In football, we think she’s full of potential to be a future international player, but she’s still kind of on the fringes ... so I think those aspects probably skew the balance a little bit where she’s more important to cricket,” he said.

Perry likes the variety in the two sports.

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