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Good Will hunting World Cup dream

Dual-sport star happy with decision to pick cricket over footy but it's exams first before sport can take precedence

Three months after making his decision to pick cricket over footy, strapping allrounder Will Sutherland has one more major challenge to deal with before he begins life in his new profession.

Like thousands of year 12 students around the country, Sutherland is busy preparing himself for his final exams. But unlike most of his classmates, he won't be out partying or heading to 'schoolies' celebrations once he puts down the pen next month.


Instead, Sutherland will turn his attention to his sport of choice after rejecting advances from the Australian Football League and accepting a professional contract with the Victorian Bushrangers.

Having being touted as a top-10 draft pick after impressing at the AFL Under-18 National Championships just months after captaining Australia's Under-19 cricket team, the 17-year-old could have been forgiven for being overwhelmed by it all.

Final-year students often struggle with the weight of expectation from their studies along but the level-headed teenager, while admitting surprise at the intense local media attention over which sport he'd pick, comfortably took it in his lengthy stride.

"I've loved footy and cricket equally and would look forward to the upcoming seasons," Sutherland told reporters outside the MCG on Wednesday.

"I loved the experience of going to the footy national championships.

"I had no idea what I wanted to do so I was going in there with open interest.

"But the passion and friendships in cricket - I've been in that environment for a long time - so that got me over the line I guess.

"There was a bit of media stuff. I just ignored that I guess and just focused on trying to win games (of football). 

"There was good support from both the cricket environment and the footy environment as well."

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Sutherland, who sees himself as a similar type of player to hard-hitting former allrounder Marcus Stoinis, says Victoria coach Andrew McDonald has been understanding of his desire to commit himself to his studies and his training with the Bushrangers will be limited until he finishes his exams next month.

But with the Victorian Premier Cricket season getting underway this weekend, Sutherland doesn't plan on missing any matches and has his eye firmly set on selection in Australia's squad for January's Under-19 World Cup.

He's also has been named vice-captain of his club side Prahran (the former home of Australia stars Chris Rogers and David Hussey) despite having played just four games for the True Blues' first XI, which says plenty about the esteem he's held in Victorian cricket circles.

Sutherland, the son of Cricket Australia chief executive James, said neither his Dad nor his Mum Heidi (who is on the board of AFL Victoria) tried to convince him to pick one sport over the other.  

"He (James) was pretty busy at the time," Sutherland said in a smiling reference to the pay dispute between CA and the Australian Cricketers' Association. "He took a back seat. 

"He said he'd back me in whatever decision I made. 

"Mum was the same. They were both really helpful and supportive in that period."

Sutherland earlier this year played alongside Austin Waugh, another young gun with a high-profile cricketing father in former Test skipper Stephen, in an Under-19 series against Sri Lanka and the Victorian said he admires the way his close friend handles the added layer of scrutiny. 

"I do look at how he goes about it," Sutherland said of Waugh. 

"He's pretty relaxed and stays away from it. He does that pretty well,

"(I) try and do that. He obviously has a lot more spotlight than me … we're good mates off the field as well."