As voted by her peers, Erin Phillips has won the first AFLW Players’ MVP Award, proudly presented by The Line.
It’s hard to miss Erin Phillips on the footy field.
The lightning speed, the effortless agility, the vision, the composure, the raw physicality and the hangers. It all comes naturally to this gifted athlete who has spanned the globe playing basketball, and has returned home in recent times to play the sport she grew up adoring.
On the global stage she’s known for her ability to run a team from the point guard position, but closer to home, Phillips’ footballing exploits have been eye-catching.
Whether it was the booming goal from outside 50 against Carlton, the hard-nosed displays in the contest, or the extraordinary performance in the inaugural AFLW Grand Final, watching the 31-year-old football convert over the last eight weeks has been astonishing.
Was any of this a surprise, however?
One man who can recall an encounter with a 16-year-old Phillips provides a poignant insight into her lofty aspirations to conquer both sports.
Enter: Phil Brown — the Head Coach of Women’s Basketball at the AIS for 24 years who can lay claim to guiding the likes of Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor.
While his time with the AFLW Players’ MVP was briefer than he would have liked, Brown can remember a driven junior athlete.
“We were sitting down and going through a goal-setting exercise and her goal was to be able to dunk,” Brown told Aflplayers.com.au.
“We talked about strength and physical capabilities and all she wanted to do was squat. So I wanted to educate her on holistic physical development and the importance of balance and strength.
“Even at under 16s, she was an outstanding athlete and was very strong through the legs and glutes and through the mid-part. With football you need to be really strong through that area. She was very focused and ambitious.
“She was a fairly dominant junior AFL player, and she had some ambitions around the AFL but then she got to 13 or 14 and they wouldn’t let her play in the competition anymore. At that time, it was AFL’s loss and basketball’s gain.”
When you see Phillips gliding across the field, or breaking tackles, it becomes obvious as to where all of that came from.
The countless work in the gym helped to build a physique capable to stand up to the rigours of elite sport.
There are many crossovers between basketball and football. Generally, basketballers are blessed with the ability to find time and space in traffic when many other players struggle.
The nature of basketball is that you’re playing in a smaller area, it’s five-on-five and it’s fast so you have to learn through your formative years to be able to control your body — to be able to stop, to change direction, to go backwards and forwards and to be able to see what’s going around you and make split-second decisions.
All of those traits have set Phillips up well for her time in the AFLW competition, according to Brown.
“I was not surprised at how she has performed in AFLW,” Brown added.
“Some of her basketball skills are very transferrable to football, so when this opportunity came up for Erin I figured she’d be a dominant player.
“The fact she can move in confined spaces because of basketball and use her peripheral vision — there’s a lot of skills, concepts and principles that are very applicable.”
Years after she had to walk away from the game because there wasn’t a pathway, it’s fitting that Phillips’ football dream has come full circle, capped off with an historic MVP, an appearance in the first ever Grand Final, a premiership and a best-on-ground performance to boot with two goals and 28 possessions.
Why The Line supports the AFL Players’ Association
For many young people, respectful relationships education begins on the sporting field. That’s why The Line, a national campaign delivered by Our Watch, is a proud partner of the AFL Players Association and sponsor of the AFL Players’ Most Valuable Player Award. The Line encourages young people to reject all forms of violence and develop healthy, equal and respectful relationships. This partnership sees the values of respect and equality being promoted to AFL players, clubs, fans and the Australian community in an effort to stop violence against women and their children. The AFLW Players’ Most Valuable Player Award is a powerful platform to celebrate the strength, courage, skill and passion of the inaugural season’s top performers, while promoting women’s participation in sport and championing equality on and off the field.