AFL stars who could have been cricketers: From Stephen Coniglio to Alex Keath to Touk Miller
The AFL is full of talented cricketers, including captain sacked Marnus Labuschagne and defender facing Shaheen Shah Afridi. ROB FORSAITH picks a First XI.
Summer is a time of reflection for many backyard and beach cricket players. Among a handful of AFL players, that sense of ‘what might have been’ has quite a bit of credence.
To celebrate the change of season, CODE Sports named a Keith Miller XI. The selection criteria was simple: be a cricketer on an AFL list in 2023.
A frank talk with Justin Langer helped the West Australian decide to focus on an AFL career rather than cricket in his 2011 draft year. Coniglio was a promising batsman who came through WA’s junior cricket alongside Cameron Bancroft rose through the ranks, while also winning a WAFL Grand Tournament. final at age 16.
Trivia Question: Which AFL player represented his state at under-17 level, playing against a NSW team featuring Pat Cummins and Kurtis Patterson?
Represented Australia at under-16 level alongside Will Sutherland, Jason Sangha and Austin Waugh. Also played cricket for Victoria throughout his teenage years and progressed through the age groups with Will Pucovski. A talented batsman who was also adept with the gloves.
Trivia Question: Which AFL player opened the batting for Australia U16s against a Pakistan attack led by Shaheen Shah Afridi?
Shannon Hurn (captain)
Long before he became West Coast’s 2018 premiership captain, the defender was a standout batsman from the Barossa Valley. Hurn was offered a rookie contract by the South Australian Cricket Association. He represented the state at successive under-17 championships, playing against the likes of Aaron Finch, Peter Siddle, Matthew Wade, Stephen O’Keefe and Peter Nevill.
Trivia question: Which AFL player named Darren Lehmann and Ryan Harris teammates while waving the willow for Northern Districts in Adelaide?
An automatic selection; the all-rounder gave up a spot on Gold Coast’s list to pursue his cricket dream. He played seven first-class matches and debuted in a 2010 Ashes tour match before being delisted by Cricket Victoria after the 2014-15 season. Keath moved to Adelaide, holding contracts with the Crows and Strikers during the following summer, eventually making his AFL debut in 2017.
Trivia Question: Which AFL player appeared alongside Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Marsh in the XI that led Australia to victory in the 2010 Under-19 World Cup final?
It wasn’t quite as spectacular as Paul ‘Fatty’ Vautin’s effort at the Gabba, but Rozee’s catch in a Twenty20 charity match at Adelaide Oval was fantastic. Was just 12 years old when state cricket selectors took note of his talent. Rozee’s family moved from Port Augusta to Adelaide to help the opening batsman develop his cricket at East Torrens, but footy proved his true calling.
Trivia Question: Which AFL player scored 29 and was dismissed by Afghan wizard Rashid Khan at Adelaide Oval in 2020?
The days of Max Walker and Peter Bedford juggling footy and cricket careers are sadly over. But the off-season cricket cameo is alive and well, as Jack Ginnivan recently proved. Meanwhile, Merrett made 152 not out when he played for Cobden in 2020. The Essendon midfielder excelled in both sports as a child, but most notably, it was a cricket scholarship that brought him to Melbourne Grammar.
Trivia question: Which AFL player featured in a Victorian under-15 cricket team alongside future BBL all-rounder Matthew Short and Gold Coast Suns star Touk Miller?
Touk Miller (wicketkeeper)
Hard to overlook anyone who played first grade cricket in Melbourne at the age of 15. The Gold Coast Suns gun has represented his state in cricket at junior level. Like many members of this XI, he quit playing cricket to increase his chances of getting drafted and hasn’t looked back since.
Trivia Question: Which AFL player made his first grade debut against Prahran in a game that featured a Chris Rogers century?
An unbeaten 52 for Vic Country, scored against NSW at the national under-15 championships in 2016, suggests he can play some. Likewise an unbeaten century for Geelong Grammar in 2018 – and the fact that the Gippsland product opened the bowling before turning his full attention to footy.
Trivia question: Which AFL player represented his state in under-15 cricket, playing alongside India-bound spinner Todd Murphy?
The fast bowler was regarded as one of Western Australia’s most exciting pace prospects. Sherrin and Kookaburra juggled both Sherrin and Kookaburra until his draft year, when selection in the AFL under-18 All-Australian team and a WAFL call-up helped ease the decision. Was invited to Cricket Australia’s 2017 route rookie camp.
Trivia Question: Which AFL player scored a hat-trick for Australia’s under-16 team in Dubai, starring in an ODI against Pakistan?
If we were trying to pick a balanced attack, it would be impossible to leave out the imposing left weapon. As it is, the Richmond co-captain warrants a place based on his output for George Town (the same club that produced Xavier Doherty) and Tasmania’s under-17s during 2011. Cricket has been his main focus, but footy has the rumble man ‘s dedication has become overlooked in the 2012 draft.
Trivia question: Which AFL player sacked Marnus Labuschagne while representing Tasmania at under-17 level?
The off-spinner, who hails from Deniliquin, visited the UK as part of a NSW Combined High Schools cricket squad in 2015. Ironically, the trip helped him decide to pursue an AFL career, having previously rejected invitations after ignoring the GWS Giants academy because of the summer sport.
Trivia question: Which AFL player toured England with Sydney Thunder duo Jason Sangha and Matt Gilkes?
Keith Miller XI
Stephen Coniglio, Nathan Murphy, Shannon Hurn (captain), Alex Keath, Connor Rozee, Zach Merrett, Touk Miller, Caleb Serong, Jordan Clark, Toby Nankervis, Todd Marshall.
Coach: Jess Duffin
Someone who understands the penalties of cricket and football at the highest level. Duffin, who recently retired after playing every AFLW season since the league’s inception, ticks both boxes as an Ashes tourist, 2012-13 Belinda Clark Award winner and WBBL mainstay.
12th man: Harry Lemmey
The absence of AFL experience was the only thing keeping this 2022 receiver out of the team. Opened the bowling for the Cricket Australia XI (a team with the country’s best under-15 players) at the under-17 national championships in 2019.