Hockeyroo Mathilda Carmichael is the latest sporting star to switch to cricket, signing with the Western Fury for the 2016-17 Women’s National Cricket League season.
Carmichael is no stranger to the sport, having been an accomplished young cricketer in New South Wales’ junior squads before deciding to concentrate her efforts solely on hockey four years ago.
The pursuit of her Hockeyroo dream led the Sydney-native to Perth, where she spent two years training at the Hockey Australia High Performance Unit.
But after missing out in a spot in the Hockeyroos squad for this year’s Olympic Games in Rio, Carmichael decided to revisit her original sporting passion.
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She joined Melville Cricket Club in January and made an immediate impression with the bat, scoring 337 runs in six games in Female A Grade 50-over cricket last season.
Her performances attracted the attention of Western Fury selectors, who added her to their 2016-17 squad.
"Because I’m not training with the Hockeyroos girls this year, I asked my coach from NSW if I could play some club cricket over here," Carmichael told cricket.com.au.
"I’m very excited. I started playing cricket in Sydney when I was eight and I played until under-18s for NSW, but it got to the point where there was a Junior World Cup coming up for hockey and if I wanted to make that squad, I needed to put more time into hockey.
"After that cricket just kind of slipped away time-wise, but when I started playing cricket again this season I realised how much I missed it."
Last year, tennis star Ash Barty switched to cricket and signed with the Brisbane Heat for the inaugural Women’s Big Bash League season, before announcing she was returning to tennis earlier this year.
While Carmichael still harbours ambitions of reigniting her international hockey career, she is also very keen to see where cricket can take her.
"I’ve still got the National Hockey League in September where I’ll play with New South Wales, but my hockey and cricket coaches are very supportive of me trying to do both sports.
"So I’ll play hockey this year with the hope of getting another opportunity with the national team after the Olympics, but I can also see a great opportunity with cricket so I’ll give that a good shot as well.
"You don’t know what will happen in 12 months, whether I’ll be back in the hockey program or I may not do so well at cricket either.
"I’m open to both hockey and cricket, so I’ll see what happens and where I can get to in both sports."
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Improved payments for female domestic cricketers make the sport an attractive prospect, while Carmichael is also hoping she’ll get an opportunity to play in the WBBL.
"When I was going through the NSW under-age programs there wasn’t money in domestic cricket, so that makes it a lot easier now trying to manage work or university.
"And with the success of the Big Bash last year it’s a very exciting time for women’s cricket.
"I watched girls I knew from NSW playing for the Sixers and Thunder last summer and thought, ‘That looks really exciting!’ So I’d love to play for the Perth Scorchers."
The Western Fury, who begin their pre-season training next month ahead of the WNCL season in October, have contracted 12 players for 2016-17, with two spots in the squad yet to be filled.
Veterans Nicky Shaw and Jenny Wallace have retired, while Jess Cameron has returned to Victoria and Gemma Triscari has not been offered a contract for the 2016-17 season.
"This is an exciting transition in time with a group of younger players and we’re excited to see how far they can go," Fury head coach Lisa Keightley said.
"We’ve lost some experience but it gives the likes of Emma King and Emma Biss the opportunity to step up as leaders.
"Chloe Piparo’s 50-over club cricket form was outstanding with three centuries including an unbeaten 115 in the grand final which bodes well.
"We’ve also had Heather Graham and Megan Banting away with the Shooting Stars in Sri Lanka recently.
"We’ll look for improvement from others such as our Rising Star winner Katie Hartshorn and Bhavi Devchand who is spending the off-season playing in England which will hopefully add to her game."
Western Fury squad: Nicole Bolton, Elyse Villani (both CA contracted), Megan Banting, Emma Biss, Melissa Cameron, Mathilda Carmichael, Piepa Cleary, Bhavi Devchand, Heather Graham, Katie Hartshorn, Emma King, Chloe Piparo