Sport

Dual international Ellyse Perry on the power of sport to bring the world together. By Richard Cooke.
Credit: CRICKET AUSTRALIA / GETTY IMAGES

The overachiever: Ellyse Perry, 24, cricketer and soccer player

I still play soccer and cricket. I’m involved in both sports. That’s where I sit with it. That’s probably all I’ve got for you. I think I’ve probably played a little bit more cricket in the last year or so but I’m still very much involved with soccer as well.

Like any passion, it’s never really tiring. It’s always enjoyable and you’ve always got the motivation to do it as well as you can.

Playing these two sports is a connection all over the world. That commonality in sport that you can appreciate and enjoy and understand together – especially when you’re quite a long way from home. People in the country you are travelling to are quite warming and welcoming. They might not have a great understanding of what you’ve done but they have an understanding of the sport that you play. You can really appreciate it on that elementary level, which is in essence the most important part of sport.

Sport contributes to society at different levels. You could look at cricket first – it’s probably one of the strongest sports culturally in Australia and it has a long history in Australia dating back to when we were first colonised by Britain. I think it plays an important role in bringing together people from a huge diversity of races and religions and backgrounds and situations.

Sometimes your career in the paper reads a bit like a soap opera. I haven’t had any problems with being targeted by other players the whole time I’ve played sports. But women’s sport is not very well known. And the fact is, it doesn’t really attract much drama or attention. It’s quite sedate in that respect. So this [a Sunday Telegraph story under the headline “Ellyse Perry kicked and punched while playing soccer…”] was a sensational story to arrive out of a different area, not standard male professional sport.

The way it was written and reported was so different to what actually occurred. And quite an interesting lesson for the media, as it shows how things can be really distorted.

There’s a huge scope for athletes being commodified. In modern society, the way that capitalism operates, especially at an elite level – you only have to put on the telly and watch sport to see just how much a role that now plays. Sports are dependent on that, too. You need funding to provide opportunities to put teams out on the weekends, and set up competitions, all those kinds of things.

It’s kind of a Catch-22. Because at the top end it’s probably not as pure as it used to be. But then at the grassroots level, a lot of young children and adults are getting far more opportunity to participate in their sports because of it.

There’s almost no sledging in women’s cricket. Every now and then someone has some kind of funny banter, but I certainly wouldn’t call it sledging. It’s just competitive. Every now and then you have a laugh on the field when someone says something funny. I don’t know if it has anything to do with gender or if it’s just the way that we play these days.

Niggles can help a fast bowler. A lot of the time you feel stiff and sore in a warm-up and think, “How am I going to do this today?” And a lot of other things take over, a lot of other thoughts. I guess the competitive nature in athletes and also the adrenalin get you through those games. You’re not so conscious of them once you’re going. It probably makes you concentrate a little bit more, and makes you a little bit more focused. When you’re feeling 100 per cent fantastic with your body, you’re probably a little bit complacent.

Sport is such a large part of our culture. And a really important one – but it’s important to know where it sits globally as well. What role cricket plays in India, or what role soccer plays in Germany, and what kind of effect that has on a country and a nation is key. I haven’t been lucky enough to go to the Olympics, but also the kind of thing that the Olympics brings to the world.

This week’s highlights…

• NRL: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs v Brisbane Broncos

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST), ANZ Stadium, Sydney

• Tennis: Wimbledon – Singles finals

Women’s, Saturday, 10.30pm (AEST); Men’s, Sunday, 10.30pm 

• AFL: Hawthorn v Fremantle Dockers

Sunday, 3.20pm (AEST), Aurora Stadium, Launceston

• Cricket: Ashes 2nd Test – England v Australia

Begins Thursday, 8pm (AEST), Lord’s Cricket Ground, London

• Cycling: Tour de France – Stage 12

Thursday, 9.35pm (AEST), Lannemezan-Plateau de Beille, France

• AFL: North Melbourne v Essendon

Friday, 7.50pm (AEST), Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jul 11, 2015 as "The overachiever". Subscribe here.

Richard Cooke
is a journalist and writer for television. He is The Saturday Paper's sports editor.

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