While it can upset certain fan bases, it’s tough to argue the interest, intrigue and conversation-starters that sporting crossovers produce. And we have some of the best dual athletes in the world right now.
There’s been recent headlines surround Roosters’ young gun Joseph Sua’ali’i opting to return to Rugby Union after the 2024 season, but frankly League-to-Union pivots aren’t as impressive than other transitions we’ve recently seen in Australian sport.
Last year, we saw one of the best to ever transfer retire, Ash Barty. But there are plenty still out there, all over the world, plying their trade in Sport B.
So let’s go through and pay our dues to some of the best dual athletes that are doing their thing right now.
Best dual athletes (current) in Australian sport
Jordan Mailata | Rugby League → NFL, Gridiron
Jordan Mailata was just the second player to be drafted in the NFL with neither American high school or college experience, taken in the 7th round back in 2018. Things continue to look bright for the Bankstown boy, who has become a hit in the United States since becoming a locked in starter on the offensive line for the Philadelphia Eagles two seasons ago and then became a crucial cog in the side’s heroic run to the Super Bowl earlier this year. They fell just short to Patrick Mahomes’ Kansas City Chiefs.
Mailata had previously aimed for a career in the NRL, attracting interest from the South Sydney Rabbitohs during his teen years. But he never progressed past the reserves. There was concern Mailata would be unable to cope with the demands of professional rugby.
He shifted attention across the Pacific, as executives of the American league invited him to try out for their International Player Pathway Program, noticed for his physicality and speed by scouts.
The 25-year-old last year signed four-year $64 million dollar extension and he’s quickly rising the ranks as an above average left tackle, one of the most technical positions in the sport. That deal may soon prove to be a bargain for Philly.
Arryn Siposs | Aussie Rules → Gridiron
If Mailata wasn’t enough of a story for those in Australian sport to get behind the Eagles as their ‘second team’ last season, perhaps the fact they had a second Aussie was.
Former St Kilda forward Arryn Siposs decided to chase the American dream after 28 games across five seasons for the Saints, between 2011-2015. He’s utilised certain Aussie Rules traits on the US stage as well, cleaning up loose snaps and carrying the ball, along with his booming right foot.
Alex Keath | Cricket → AFL
For many, Keath’s name would be familiar for his performances on the football field. However, the 31-year-old started his sporting endeavours as an aspiring cricketer (here’s his Cricinfo bio).
Before his 2019 breakout year, finishing ninth in the Adelaide Crows’ Best and Fairest, he found some success through his time with Cricket Victoria and the Melbourne Stars.
But despite signing with the Adelaide Strikers in 2015, a first-class contract wasn’t on the table. So Keath turned his attention to Aussie Rules and hasn’t looked back; on pace to reach 100 AFL games later this season. After starting with the Crows, the key defender was part of the Western Bulldogs’ side that reached the Grand Final in 2021.
Monique Conti | Basketball → AFLW
A three-time Best and Fairest winner for Richmond, Monique Conti continues to impress in the AFLW.
Known as one of the best players in the competition, she has amassed a string of career highlights. It includes a rising star nomination, best on ground in the Grand Final of the Bulldogs’ 2018 premiership and now four All-Australians – all at just 23 years of age.
Conti has also had success in her basketball endeavours with both the WNBL and the national level during her teens, as well as interest from US colleges. After deciding to give her full attention to the AFLW in 2020, it’s fair to say that it was the right move.
Hugh Greenwood | Basketball → AFL
Whilst Hugh Greenwood is seen delivering stellar performances on the football field for North Melbourne, he once had a potential career as a basketballer.
The now 31-year-old had stints in the national team and the University of New Mexico, which saw Greenwood impress in the NCAA. With a pre-draft workout invite from the Utah Jazz and a contract from the Perth Wildcats both on offer to Greenwood, he ended up walking away one week into the 2015 NBL pre-season.
Like Keath, Greenwood is on track to reach 100 games later in the 2023 season with the Kangaroos, after previous stints with the Adelaide Crows and Gold Coast Suns.
Gretal Bueta | Basketball → Netball
Queensland Firebirds’ Gretel Bueta last year celebrated a milestone in Super Netball, appearing in her 100th national league game, undoubtedly satisfied with her decision to previously pivot from basketball.
The 29-year-old is now one of the country’s best netballers. But was once a very promising basketballer as well. She was the WNBL Rookie of the Year in 2011 before crossing codes less than a year after that honour.
The sister of former AFL footballers Kurt and Joel Tippett, goal shooter Bueta has been named in the league Team of the Year three times and has also claimed the highest individual honour in the SSN, the Liz Ellis Diamond.
Absolutely proud of our star shooters Donnell Wallam & Gretel Bueta on being selected in the 2022-23 @AussieDiamonds squad ????????????????— Queensland Firebirds (@FirebirdsQld) April 21, 2022
Such a special moment and a very well deserved honour. pic.twitter.com/o4Tr14VaXm
Brianna Davey | Football (soccer) → AFLW
Before cementing herself as one of the best players in the AFLW, Collingwood’s Brianna Davey was a rising talent in football, as a goalkeeper.
She was beginning to make her mark, playing for both the Matildas and Melbourne Victory in the W-League, having also had a stint for Linköping FC in Sweden, being described as ‘probably the world’s most talented goalkeeper’ by coach Davey Sjögren.
Following her omission from the Matildas’ 2015 World Cup squad, Davey picked up Aussie Rules, playing for the St Kilda Sharks in the VFL. She later moved onto the AFLW, signed by Carlton as a marquee player. Davey then went to the dark side, joining Collingwood in 2020 and took home the league best-and-fairest that season.
The 28-year-old has now totalled 35 AFLW games, despite unfortunately losing most of her 2021-22 season to an ACL rupture.
Ellie Cole | Wheelchair Basketball → Swimming
Before she was making a splash for Australia at the Commonwealth Games and Paralympics in competitive swimming, Ellie Cole was firing it up on the court whilst representing Victoria in the Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League.
She took out the league’s award for best new talent in 2013. However, she ultimately had her heart set out on swimming with her stint in wheelchair basketball lasting just a few years.
She really made her mark in swimming following her successes at the 2020 Summer Paralympics, which saw her to become Australia’s most decorated female Paralympian with 17 total medals, passing former swimmer Priya Cooper (16).Embed from Getty Images
Emma Kearney | Cricket → AFLW
Kearney is a six-time All-Australian. She’s another gun that made the switch from cricket, signing with the Melbourne Stars for the inaugural WBBL season.
Following the controversy surrounding Cricket Australia’s choice to ask athletes to prioritise cricket training over AFLW training sessions, Kearney shifted her focus entirely. The Victorian-born footballer saw huge success during her time at the Western Bulldogs and that’s continued with North Melbourne.
The 33-year-old also has played in a premiership, was the league Best and Fairest in 2018 and twice claimed club B&F honours while at the Dogs.
Ellyse Perry | Football → Cricket
The 32-year-old is a superstar of women’s cricket and widely considered by many to be one of the greatest female players. As she rose up the ranks in the cricketing world, she juggled the sport along with her commitments as a soccer player.
At just the age of 16, Perry made her debuts in the national teams for cricket and soccer. This made her the youngest Australian to play international cricket. She is also the only sportswoman to compete at both cricket and soccer world cups.
After deciding to hang up the soccer boots and focus on playing cricket, Perry has continued to go from strength to strength with both bat and ball.Embed from Getty Images