Ellyse Perry is the definition of renowned. Debuting for her country in both cricket and soccer at 16, she has represented the Matildas at a World Cup and at 25 already won more silverware for the Southern Stars than most could dream of in an entire career; the quintessential role model.
But her capacity to make it in more than one sport isn’t unique. A host of less-heralded Australian sportswomen are thriving in multiple codes as a product of the semi-professional era.
Naturally the high profile examples win the headlines. WTA tour member Ash Barty traded in her tennis racquet for a Brisbane Heat cricket bat in the inaugural season of the Women’s Big Bash, while Southern Stars batsman Jessica Cameron did the opposite, relinquishing the willow to throw on a guernsey in the upcoming Victorian Football League (VFL).
But the juggling act is evident in nearly every team you choose to examine.
Another dual-international, Nicole Richardson, won bronze in softball at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics before claiming Commonwealth Games Gold in netball just six years later.
Richardson says until women are paid more professionally, they are going to keep pursuing multi-code careers.
“Kids are getting drafted into the AFL at such a young age now and once drafted into something like that, they’re considered full-time athletes,” explains Richardson, now a netball defensive coach for the West Coast Fever.
“Until women’s sports are in the position where they can pay our athletes similar to that of football players, then girls are going to be in a position where they are chasing varying different sporting careers to assist from a financial aspect.”
With schedules crammed into more intensive windows in the calendar, sportswomen are more readily able to pursue concurrent careers.
Aussie Diamonds shooter Caitlin Thwaites recognises and welcomes this balance, which extends to study too.
“Semi-professionalism is being able to have that work-life balance and not putting all your eggs in one basket,” said Thwaites, who once pursued an Olympic volleyball dream before netball came calling – a switch that saw her earn Commonwealth Gold.
“Being a well-rounded person comes as a result of that; pursuing careers outside of sport.”
Thwaites supports the ongoing campaign for full-time contracts, but hopes tertiary education and post-career professions will still be regarded with high importance when the day comes.
“That’s probably fallen by the way-side a little bit in some of the male dominated sports,” she said.
“They get thrown into it at such a young age and get to the end of their career in their 30s and wonder ‘well what am I going to do now?’.” […]