GWS Giants defender Phil Davis recently launched a podcast with the ABC called ‘The Phil Davis Podcast‘. We spoke to the inaugural Giant about how the concept came together, his interest in the media and what he’s learnt from playing in South Australia and New South Wales.
Kavisha Di Pietro: You recently launched a podcast with the ABC called ‘The Phil Davis Podcast’. How did the concept and partnership with the ABC come together?
Phil Davis: It was probably about 18 months ago when someone just started at the ABC. He was very keen to get me on-board to work with them on a podcast and that was when we had the first conversation over coffee on what the podcast might look like and if I had any interest. For me, the timing wasn’t quite right then and so I put it on the backburner, but it was always there in my mind. I revisited the idea about four months ago and that was when we started planning out the details and determining what it might look like. With Coronavirus and the season shutdown I had a lot more time on my hands. The people I’ve interviewed in the first three episodes (Patrick Dangerfield, Eddie Betts and Daisy Pearce) all aren’t from Sydney and so I think the nature of COVID-19 has actually made that a little bit easier – people have become more open to those types of conversations happening virtually.
Those guests that you speak of are all well-known AFL figures, but your conversations with them extended beyond football. What was the experience like for you being able to expand those interviews to be more about their life away from the game?
I must admit I chose Pat as a bit of a soft target to start being that I know him so well. I’ve been good mates with him for a long time and was best man at his wedding so it felt like the perfect place to start – there was a lot there for us to discuss and things that I knew about him that people could relate to. Eddie and I are good friends too. I must admit I’ve chosen easier people to start interviewing as I find my groove, but I think as time goes on there will certainly be more challenging podcasts that I do where I go in cold. I think when you interview people you know there are elements and talking points that flow naturally because you know that it is an area of interest and hopefully that was going to resonate with the audience as well. I’ll certainly be pushing myself into more uncomfortable spaces as the episodes go on.
Is a career in the media post-football something that interests you?
I think from a career point of view, I am more just looking at developing skills as much as possible. I understand that football has been my core focus for 12 years, I’ve done a degree as well but I’m always looking at trying to upskill myself and see what other options I can create whether that be a podcast, other media work, like calling a game or whatever it is, I’m always open to experimenting and learning new skills. Podcasting has definitely been a skill that hasn’t come super naturally to me – I’ve been working on different elements of what I’m trying to do and asking for feedback. That’s been a big part of it for me.
What about the element of being able to interview people outside of the football industry?
I think from my point of view, I could almost say the podcast is a little bit selfish. It’s nice to see these professional footballers, or athletes in any sport, be confined to talking about their exploits on the field. There are so many articles, interviews, media opportunities; the list goes on, where you’re talking just about football. I’m interested in what else is going on in their life. That’s great for me in terms of content, but I also think it’s really important for an athlete to be able to express themselves in a safe environment and have the opportunity to talk about the things that they want to talk about – whether that be a passion or sharing a more personal story. A big part of it for me is, ‘Can I shed some light on the athlete mindset on and off-the-field?’
Growing up, I was a young kid who craved more and more about elite athletes growing up and now I’ve got a platform where I’m hoping to be able to open up more discussions on these topics and have young people (or whoever it is) listen in and develop a greater understanding. It’s great to talk to these highly successful people and see how their minds tick too.
You spoke earlier about being able to grow and develop your skillset. Part of that learning has come from your podcast with the GWS Giants called ‘The Footy Phil’ that you co-host with Giants media manager Alison Zell. What have you learnt from that experience that has held you in good stead for where you’re at now?
There’s no doubt the club podcast has been a good learning tool. Alison has done a great job at keeping me in line and making sure that I keep to timeframes and topics without getting too lost. Even that was a bit of a process – we’ve gone from interviewing fellow teammates to moving more towards a bit of a discussion this year. It’s been a bit of fun being able to do that and learn from within the club. I think one thing you do learn is that soundbites can always be taken out of context pretty quickly, which is something you can easily forget when doing a podcast where your audience is predominantly Giants fans. The experience with the Giants podcast and what Alison has taught me about pulling it all together has complemented the skills I’m trying to learn with interviewing and being able to build that content.
How have your own football experiences shaped your media persona?
I think my own personality comes out naturally in the way that I talk, ask questions, what I want to know more about and how I interact, but I also think that it’s important to make sure you’re presenting yourself in a certain manner the whole way through. There’s no doubt that there is a large element of my personality when I present myself in the media but I’m also making sure I’m adaptable and reaching as many people as possible. I don’t want to alienate myself to only have an audience or following of Giants supporters or people that know me for my football. I want to make sure that I can cover as many people as possible. On last week’s episode, I had Daisy Pearce and she was just so impressive – she’s a great example of what I’m talking about in terms of being adaptable. I’m hoping that balance of my personality and being adaptable to the situation will help me to share more stories and support people in opening up to share their own life experiences.
Playing at both the Crows and the Giants you’ve experienced two vastly different media landscapes. What were the key differences that you noticed when you made the move ahead the Giants’ inaugural season?
I learnt so much about the game of football and more importantly the game of football away from the football field when I was in South Australia. Almost to an extent, the fans and media and everything else that comes with the game can come at you when you’re in a football-driven state. It is the pinnacle of the calendar throughout much of Australia. I grew up in South Australia and I was exactly like that as a young kid. I soaked up every possible football story or moment I could – it dictated my week. That was something that being there and playing didn’t affect me too much. I certainly wasn’t a big name player in my time at Adelaide. In fact, I’m still not now (laughs). But, you definitely feel it and begin to understand that fishbowl. You compare that experience to being in Sydney where, because we were a new team, we’re trying to educate the people and build that good PR. We were trying to get as much media exposure as possible to grow the game. It was two different strategies – in NSW you’re talking less football jargon and trying to build a supporter base that is going to grow with your team. It’s something that I’m incredibly proud of being able to do. It was a monumental task – and we’re not finished yet – but it’s been very pleasing to see the relationships grow between the club, the media and our fanbase. In South Australia, football is in the blood of the people and a piece of the fabric within the community, whereas in Sydney you’re trying to create that understanding.
We’ll leave it there – thanks for your time Phil. Good luck when the season returns.
No worries. Thanks Kavisha.