Ellyse Perry: “I feel very fortunate to be an Australian athlete”

As someone who grew up playing sport in the backyard with my family, and then progressing to competitive team sports every weekend, it’s safe to say it was never easy being a young female athlete fighting for a starting position on the field. As I got older, I found myself moving up the ranks in my chosen sport – women’s football [soccer]. One thing was apparent, the training became highly involved and I found myself committing majority of my time away from school to developing and refining my skills, hoping to one day walk the field as a representative of my country.

I remember the first time I heard the name Ellyse Perry. I was 15 and training with the NSW women’s football team. Ellyse, a female athlete who at 16 had represented Australia in both cricket and football – what an achievement! Making it to a national level in two sports – now that is something that requires an incredible level of commitment, hard work, and passion.

Ten years on and Ellyse has become an iconic player and role model for both women and men globally. At just 26 years of age, Ellyse continues to play an integral part in cricket and football teams for Australia. With Ellyse recently in town in her role as ambassador for Priceline, we sat down with her to chat about where her undivided passion for sports comes from, what she loves to do off the field, and her thoughts on the future of women in the game.

How much are you training? Take me through a week, what does it look like?
I train every day, and then during the season we play on the weekends – so I spend a fair bit of time at training. I’ll probably have a few sessions a day, so obviously practicing the sport that I’m currently playing. At the moment it’s a lot of cricket – so batting, bowling and fielding. Then around that we would also have a weights session and do some running and conditioning exercises. I guess the weights and the running alternates between days, but everyday we’ll be practicing our skills.

I’m sure that you get a lot of people coming to you internationally wanting you to go overseas. Has there been any desire to move permanently to another country?
Certainly in terms of international sport, I’ve only ever played for Australia – but I played a season in England last year. I think with the rise of Twenty20 Cricket, there’s more and more opportunities around the world. We’ve got the Women’s Big Bash League in Australia, and England have recently started one called the Super League, so I played in that tournament last year and probably again this year. I think that one of the most exciting things about sport is the amazing opportunities that you get to do around the world – playing in different teams and meeting different people.

How does sport in Australia compare with overseas for females?
I suppose it depends on what sport you’re talking about, but certainly in a number of sports we’re really leading the charge in terms of the growing professionalisation of codes. If you look at cricket and the AFL that’s recently started, soccer to an extent, netball, hockey… all those kinds of sports – I think given our culture and how enthusiastic we are about sport, in a lot of ways we are leading the charge on [making it professional for women]. I certainly feel very fortunate to be an Australian athlete, especially in the sports that I play. It’s been a really nice period to be involved as well, to see how much things are progressing.

You’ve been doing a lot of work with Priceline recently. How did you get involved in that?
I think the fit is really perfect in the sense that Priceline’s focus is very much about females and women, which is really important as a female athlete – as traditionally we haven’t had the same recognition and support as male athletes. To have a brand like Priceline come on board and wholeheartedly invest in the team that I play with – the Sydney Sixers – but also other female sporting codes, and really work in partnership to promote those teams and those codes, it’s fantastic. It’s been so nice to do different things with them. I’m very much looking forward to it in the future as well and hopefully working with them to grow the sport to be even bigger than what it is now.

How do you feel about women in sport being compared to men?
My take is that we are entirely different. It’s a really easy and natural thing to do to compare female and male athletes, but given the way that we are made genetically and biologically different – it’s actually does us a huge disservice to be compared to men. The sports are played completely differently. I think that’s one of the most important things to remember and one of the things that Priceline addresses so well – growing our own identity and becoming something entirely separate, rather than always being compared to the men. Hopefully that means more and more young girls and women want to be involved in sport.

Are you happy with the level of coverage received for female sports?
That’s something that’s always growing. I think this year and the last couple of years has been a turning point for female sport in the way that it’s broadcast and covered. The more matches that are on television and the more it’s exposed to people, the bigger it’s going to get. In the past, a lot of it has been quite high-level glossy magazine pieces. The more it can be critiqued and written about in depth, and the more you get to know different players and different teams and people can have a real understanding for the competition, the better it is.

When you’re not on the sporting field what can we find you doing?
At the moment I’ve got my hands full with a lot of puppies, so walking around my neighbourhood mostly or going down to the beach. I love just catching up with friends and family, and I’m also a really big café connoisseur. My husband and I are involved in a few cafés down in Canberra, and we also just like to visit cafés as well. They’re probably the main things I like to do.

What do you think it is about yourself that has made you such a successful sportsperson?
It’s probably less to do with myself and more so the support that I’ve had from such a wide and varied range of people, particularly my parents – they certainly fostered a huge love for sport in the outdoors and me. I think importantly they’ve never ever been pushy parents, they wanted me to do things that I enjoyed doing and they always bent over backwards to make sure I was able to do that. I guess it’s also about the strokes of fortune that you get along the way and making the most of them.

Written by YASEMIN GENC Cricket image: @ellyseperry_ All other images: Yelena Fairfax

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