“Brett Deledio and Marc Murphy, they were state under-17 players, and then made the decision in their draft years to go to footy. We mainly have got them. When you think they are going to be good players, they have mainly chosen footy, but I think Will might be possibly the first (potential) top 10 or at least a first rounder that took the cricket offer.
“Alex Keath was probably similar, he went to cricket then footy, but he also looked a first rounder at the time. He could have been a top 10 because of his size. He was still quite thin at the time but had the talent and was exciting. He is probably the closest to Will Sutherland that I can think of who took up the offer (to play cricket).”
That Sutherland’s father, James, was a former first-class cricketer and the then chief of Cricket Australia gave cricket the inside running but his love for football was also obvious. It should be remembered that James Sutherland had come to cricket from a football finance background and, since his departure from CA, again has a role in the sport, as a board director at the Geelong Football Club.
“We always knew it was a 50-50. He certainly gave us a good crack and did well and enjoyed it but, to be surrounded by elite cricket, just through dad, there is no doubt he had a greater insight into that than he did footy,” Sheehan said.
“That gave him the confidence he could do it. But he did love his footy and was very good at it.”
He is also very good at cricket. Approaching midday, the fast-bowling allrounder was handed the ball for the first time, and struck with just his third delivery, having Bryce Street (6) caught at point by fellow debutant Jake Fraser-McGurk. He followed up soon after when, having gone around the wicket to Matt Renshaw, he had the former Test opener lunging at a full-length delivery and edging behind. By lunch on a rain-marred day, with the figures of 2-3 off four overs, there was little doubt Sutherland would have felt he had made the right call about his sporting future.
The strapping lad had already impressed with bat and ball through domestic one-day matches this season and last, his campaign last summer cruelled by a back problem. But there have been no such issues this summer, and his rise is set to continue.
Sutherland has modelled his game, in part, on former Test allrounders Shane Watson and Andrew McDonald. The latter recently quit as Victorian coach, and will begin his new role as an assistant with the Australian side on Saturday. He was in India this week and took great satisfaction with Sutherland’s first-class call up.
“Will certainly is on the right path to becoming a genuine allrounder in my eyes – so powerful with the bat and skillful with the ball for a kid,” he said.