Perry shines a light on women’s football

Monday, 5 November 2012 1:45 PM
Perry shines a light on women's football

With the exception of a select few like Sam Stosur, Steph Gilmore and Sally Pearson, there’s a noticeable dearth of household names in Australian women’s sport.

Which is not to say there’s a lack of talent. In women’s football, the Westfield Matildas are currently ranked ninth in the world, and the Westfield W-League is filled with players who’ve excelled in the world’s leading competitions like the WSL and Bundesliga. But while most Australians with a passing interest in sport could name numerous men’s players, members of the Westfield Matildas and cricket’s Southern Stars (ranked second in the world) don’t leap quite so readily to mind.

Enter Ellyse Perry.

The dual international has spent the past five years juggling football and cricket commitments for club and country (as well as a university degree), becoming a promotional lightning rod for both sports in the process. Standout performances on domestic and international stages have done much to raise the profile of women’s football in Australia. And the impact of this publicity can’t be overstated.

Despite financial discrepancies, Perth Glory’s Aivi Luik agrees that the key to the development of women’s football is coverage. “We could be number one [in the world] eventually, yeah. Obviously money would help but it’s more about exposure and keeping the game in the school system.”

Eyebrows were raised in May this year when Canberra United informed Perry that she would have to commit herself solely to football if she wished to remain with the premiership-winning club. But Canberra’s loss has been Sydney FC’s gain. After playing for the NSW Breakers on the Friday and Saturday, Perry backed up for Sydney FC’s round one clash with Newcastle Jets on the Sunday. Her two goal-assists were crucial in helping the Sky Blues claim a 3-3 draw.

Her versatility highlights the double-edged nature of women’s sport. To achieve and maintain such a high level in two vastly different sports simultaneously would be unimaginable in the men’s games due to much longer seasons.

But to reduce Perry to a mere beneficiary of scheduling is to do her a disservice. If similar dual internationals started popping up everywhere, one might begin to question the depth of our female sporting talent. But as it is, she remains one of a kind and thoroughly deserving of the plaudits. A sentiment shared by her new club.

“She’s a really committed person and hats off to her level of commitment,” says Sydney FC coach Alen Stajcic. “To have that level of enthusiasm from a player is really great.”

Until the standard of her performances in either sport are compromised by the juggling act, her commitment to both should only be applauded.

Perry returned to the field for Sydney FC against archrivals Brisbane Roar on Saturday, scoring one of three goals in an impressive showing.