Perry loving her double life

Far from being weighed down with the pressures of balancing elite football and cricket, Canberra United starlet Ellyse Perry says the secret is keeping her two sporting careers fun.

Far from being weighed down with the pressures of balancing elite football and cricket, Canberra United starlet Ellyse Perry says the secret is keeping her two sporting careers fun.

Perry, 19, has represented the Westfield Matildas on 12 occasions. She has also represented Australia's Southern Stars at the 2009 Women's Cricket World Cup after becoming the youngest Australian ever to play international cricket when she made her ODI debut in 2007.

And in recent months the cultured defender has cemented her reputation in the Westfield W-League with some eye-catching performances for Canberra. In fact, it was this form which helped earn her the coveted Westfield W-League's young player award, which she shared with Brisbane's Elise Kellond-Knight.

"For me it's just about the enjoyment," Perry said after receiving her gong in Sydney on Monday. "I wouldn't play both sports if I didn't enjoy them as much as I do because it does take an enormous amount of effort not just on my behalf but on behalf of other people who provide support to me.

The Westfield W-League defender joins a grand tradition of Australian dual-sportsmen and women. Scott Draper was a three-time Australian Davis Cup tennis player before he gained his 2007 Australasian PGA tour card. And in 1984, Paul Narracott ran in the 100m and 200m at the LA Olympics before contesting the two-man bobsleigh at the 1992 Winter Olympics.

And who could forget Nova Batman (formerly Nova Peris-Kneebone)? She was the first Aussie to win international gold medals in two different sports - Olympic hockey in 1996 and Commonwealth Games athletics in 1998.

"I feel incredibly lucky and certainly don't take it for granted," added Perry. "It's not really a juggling act. It's just part of what I do."

Westfield Matildas coach Tom Sermanni believes there are advantages to having a dual international in his midst but also recognises balancing Perry's competing demands is crucial.

"She's a naturally gifted athlete to start with and playing different elite sports can actually benefit her. The key is to manage her in such a way that's in her best interests and I think both sports have done a proper job of looking after her welfare."

However, right now international sport is the last thing on Perry's mind. She and her United team-mates have a do-or-die semi-final with Westfield W-League minor premiers Sydney FC at Shark Park on Saturday.

And Perry, cannily, is happy to spruik her team's underdog standing heading into the clash with the red-hot Sky Blues.

"I can't tip against my own team but Sydney is high quality and proved that by being the premiers. We'll take the underdog status but finals football is a tremendous leveller which makes the games a lot closer than they should be," she said.

The Sky Blue women are well-placed to go one better than last season where they were knocked out in the Westfield W-League semi finals by the eventual champions Brisbane Roar.

But after last season - when Canberra made it to the Westfield W-League grand final only to be pipped 2-0 by the Roar girls in Brisbane - Perry also senses there is some unfinished business for the girls in green.

"I'm sure the girls would want to make it back to the grand final after last season. The fact they've experienced that makes them very hungry to get back there and even go one further," she said.

"Finals football always has that air of excitement about them. And I'm sure there will be plenty [of fans] making the drive up from Canberra for the game."

But despite the importance of this weekend's crunch game at Shark Park, Perry's recurring theme of deriving pleasure from her sporting career is never too far away.

"Just the sheer enjoyment I've got out of the Westfield W-League makes it worth it," she added.