Mark Worthington is a dual Olympian. He’s played for the Australian Boomers in London and in Beijing. He's just come off guarding the world's best play in LeBron James. He’s just signed a new contract to play pro ball in Serbia. But now he wants to change sports.
It’s not exactly Michael Jordan leaving the Bulls to play baseball, but Worthington, close to a deal with the Australian Football League’s West Coast Eagles, is willing to leave the sport that has served him so well to chase a childhood dream and play Aussie Rules footy.
Worthington played college ball in the States before etching out a name for himself in Australia’s NBL as a true star and a lights-out shooter from beyond the arc. He spent most of his time since 2010 playing professionally overseas, but now the 29-year-old wants to follow in his father’s footsteps- Kevin Worthington played footy in Western Australia during the 1970s and 80s.
Eagles coach John Worsfold was apparently impressed with his skills saying his touch was reminiscent of, "someone who's been doing it their whole life''.
Of course, Worthington offers something that footballers don’t usually possess in such abundance- size. He’s an athlete and he stands at 2.02m (6 ft 8 in).
Worthington worked out with the Richmond Tigers prior to the London Olympics but was told he was too old.
"I like those challenges and when people tell me I can't do stuff, it probably drives me that little bit further and it's something that, if people tell me I'm too old, you can guarantee I'm going to work my ass off to make it work,'' was Worthington’s response.
Worthington case is not that unusual. Australian football clubs have been looking at American athletes to come over and learn the game. The experiment has been successful with Irish players, but they play a similar sport back home.
Mike Pyke, a Canadian, came into the AFL, learnt the game from scratch and has proved to be a valuable commodity for the Sydney Swans in the ruck.
Dean Brogan, a ruck for GWS, played professional basketball earlier in his career before making a very successful transition into the AFL game.
The dollars in Aussie football aren't usually that high, especially for a guy who'd be hopeful to get a spot as a backup ruckman, so it's hard to understand Worthington's motives from that perspective. European basketball clubs play big bucks and having seen him play in person, changing sports sounds crazy like a crazy move, but if he can kick goals like he shoots threes he could be in with a chance.