Promising youngster Meyrick Buchanan has turned his back on pursuing a career as a cricketer.

Instead, he has headed back to football, the sport that only two years ago he quit when he signed a contract with the Melbourne Renegades and the Victorian Bushrangers. Prior swapping over, Buchanan had been rated highly by recruiters and looked likely to be drafted in the second round of the AFL Draft.

At 19 years of age, Meyrick still has time on his side and has rejoined the Geelong Falcons in an attempt to get picked up in November’s AFL draft and join his brother, Amon, as a professional footballer.

The reason? Buchanan has lost his Cricket Victoria rookie contract after failing to impress during the summer, despite being a member of the Australian under 19’s side just a few months earlier.

This news comes as quite a shock, as football have lost their fair share of youngsters to cricket over the years, and not most have not looked back.

The battle for players between cricket and football dates back to the late 1980’s, when the draft was introduced for the then VFL and both sports ushered in the professional era.

For footballers, the season would end in September and start in November, with pre-season training becoming ever more critical. Cricketers also become aware of the benefits of a 10-month season; moving from summer-to-summer, Australia to England.

Before this, many had twin careers in both sports. Simon O’Donnell, Max Walker and the great Keith Miller all played VFL football and test cricket, along with many others. Even Australia’s greatest spinner Shane Warne played under 19’s football for the St Kilda Football Club.

It was 1989 when Warne decided to focus purely on cricket, around the time that this professional era started.

The last real example of a person to play in the AFL and first class cricket is Nick Jewell, son on Richmond premiership coach Tony, who played one game for the Tigers in 1997 before turning to cricket and becoming an opener for the Bushrangers.

In recent times, the lure of playing for big cash in the lucrative Indian Premier League and the opportunity to wear the baggy green for Australia has been all too strong for the AFL.

Mitch Marsh is one who turned his back on footy, and you can say it has been a success for him so far.

The Western Australian represented his state at the 2008 National AFL championships but now has contracts with the Western Warriors and Pune, and has represented his country at the one-day and Twenty20 forms of the game. Marsh is still only 21, with a bright future ahead of him in the game of cricket.

Alex Keath, also 21, is a Victorian who hasn’t been as successful as Marsh so far in his career. He has struggled to break into a very strong Bushrangers outfit and in his only Melbourne Stars match, he was smashed for 27 runs off just one over against Perth.

Back in 2010, Keath was at the centre of a bidding war between Victoria and the Gold Coast Suns, who he was contracted to play VFL for. He eventually chose to take up a three-year contract with the Bushrangers, rumoured for an unprecedented amount for an 18-year old at the time. He still has a lot of work to do.

While this backflip will be seen as a win for the AFL, it is really just a fall back option by Buchanan that was taken when he didn’t succeed in doing what he wanted in cricket.

The battle for talented youngsters will continue forever and a day, but as long as we claim the Ashes with some of these youngsters, I don’t begrudge them for choosing cricket, and I’m sure even diehard AFL fans won’t either.

Written by Sam Mills

19. Sports lover and aspiring journalist. Proud Melburnian. @OnlyMillsy on Twitter.

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