Perry Ultimatum

The very vocal ultimatum given to Ellyse Perry by her W-League club, Canberra United, will stir-up the lefties’ free-will fibres. Still, it’s a necessary decision for the respectability of Women’s sport.

Ellyse Perry, Australian fast bowler.

Ellyse Perry has been a popular media phenom since she made the Australian sides for both soccer and cricket five years ago. She is an elite athlete of unquestionable skill. However it could be argued that, had her talents only got her to the top in one sport, her time in the media may have been more limited. Not because she would have any less ability in that sport, only that the wow-factor of female athletes requires disproportionate magnification for mainstream media to pay much attention. (Much theory on this, here is a good starting point). As such, Perry is an important advocate for female sports.

Ellyse Perry in the Canberra green no longer. Photo:

Canberra United’s decision can’t have been a big surprise to the 21-year-old mid-fielder/bowler. Part of the attractiveness of her story was the question of how long she could continue to play both sports. After going through the last season undefeated, winning the title, and saying it was done at a “cruise”, United Coach Jitka Klimkova said she would continue to focus on improving the club in 2012/13. What’s left to improve when you’re the first W-League team to make it through the season with a clean sheet? The answer, according to the spokespeople at Canberra United, is professionalism. As an infrequent training attendee, Perry compromises that.

The ultimatum is a bold stance taken by a team who are in a position to be bold. A lesser club perhaps couldn’t have, and certainly Cricket Australia won’t allow NSW to banish their poster girl.

CA position on soccer club ultimatum to Ellyse Perry: We support her ambition to play both cricket & soccer for as long as she wants. (Cricket Australia GM, Peter Young, via Twitter)

In the long run, it’s a move likely to payout wide-spread dividends. If women’s sport is to improve its status to somewhere close to men’s in the media, professionally-focused decisions like this are a must.

The Sydney Morning Herald et al reported on Wednesday that Perry had all but left Canberra in search for another W-League club and she confirmed her desire to continue pursuing both sports. (Sydney FC was at the top of the list).

In the same report, Canberra United CEO Heather Reid said Perry’s popularity wasn’t enough to earn her special privileges. While I agree with United’s move in the name of professionalism, Reid is wrong on this count. The cost of Perry’s withdrawal from even one sport would be massive because Perry is more popular playing both sports than she is playing one.

In the past two years Australian newspapers have mentioned Ellyse Perry on 625 occasions. Leah Poulton, a prolific scorer for the Australian cricket team, and slightly more capped player, appeared over the same period, in the same newspapers, 219 times. Using the same criteria for Clare Polkinghorne, captain of Brisbane Roar and fellow Matilda, my search returned just 99 results.

Perry and her dual international status draw exceedingly valuable publicity to both sports; publicity the FFA and Cricket Australia are well advised to harness. While Canberra United deserve praise for their chutzpah, the FFA had better make sure another club picks her up, lest women’s sport lose another column in the rags.


  1. Dave Nadel says

    This argument only exists because (apart from Tennis) women’s sport isn’t fully professional. Until the eighties all male footballers (at least in Aussie Rules and the two Rugby codes) and cricketers had “day jobs” or even professional careers and earned a relatively small remuneration for their semi-professional sport. In these circumstances many played one sport in summer and another in winter. In the mid twentieth century some players, Keith Miller for example, excelled at the top level of both cricket and football.

    Then the football codes and cricket became professional and started paying the players large sums of money. In return they expected their players to be available for up to ten months each year. I think Max Walker was the last Australian to play a significant number of football and cricket games at the top level (in the 70s). Craig Bradley played both Shield Cricket and VFL/AFL football (in the 80s) Nick Jewell played both AFL and Sheffield Shield but not at the same time and in the case of football not for very long. Some almanacker is bound to mention someone I have missed.

    If Canberra United was paying Elyse Perry the same amount that Melbourne Victory pays its midfielders they would be in a position to demand that she devote herself singlemindedly to soccer. But they are not and until the media pays more for Women’s Soccer they are not going to be able to pay fully professional wages. Equally, if Cricket Australia paid Perry something comparable to the remuneration received by Peter Siddle or at least James Pattinson then they could make the same demands of Perry that they make of Siddle and Pattinson.

    Until that time Elyse Perry is effectively an amateur and has every right to further her career by playing both sports on whatever terms that she can get.

  2. Richard Naco says

    I was lucky enough to go to high school with Jenny Cheesman, arguably the greatest women’s athlete in team games that this country has ever produced. I actually got to play 21 with her once (a basketball shooting game), and she beat me 21-1 (and I have always suspected that she gifted me my 1).

    While she was still a teenager, she was a full international in both softball & basketball. Then before she turned 20, she was selected as the starting centre for the Australian netball team, but had to decline as she’d already committed to a tour with the national basketball team. She was also busy completing tertiary studies at that time as well: a true all-rounder.

    In the end, she focused on basketball and had a sensational career.

    I got to coach her in the Canberra 1st division when she was Australian captain and an assistant coach at the AIS. We won the title, but I contributed absolutely nothing to her career. Even in the mid 80s, she’d already forgotten more about basketball than I ever learnt.

    I find it interesting that true multi-discipline champions like Cheese & Elyse Perry tend to be females rather than blokes.

  3. Skip of Skipton says

    Blow your own trumpet sometime, Richard. I never knew you were a coach of such distinction. I tell you what though, GWS will be a good side sooner rather than later.

  4. Steve Fahey says

    It’s ironic that women’s sport can usually only grab the headlines, other than during the two-week Olympic frenzy each four years, through fiascos such as this and the Pippa Savaqe rowing situation.

    Agree completely with Dave and Keiran – Perry is a FANTASTIC role model for young people of both genders and Canberra United’s ultimatum is nonsensical. Go Ellyse !!

  5. Dave, I agree that Perry has every right to play both sports. I also think Canberra United have every right to try to improve their club culture, regardless of the remuneration they’re capable of providing (as was mentioned, that’s largely out of their hands). It’s a fundamental of any quality grade club (be it soccer, cricket, footy) that to play first grade, you also have to commit to train with the team.

    Still, Perry is a fantastic athlete. Looking forward to seeing more success with whatever club takes her up.

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