The Oakleigh Chargers are well known for producing AFL-ready players.
The likes of Marc Murphy, Luke Shuey, Dan Hannebery and Toby Greene — just to name a few — spring to mind when thinking of their recent success stories.
Collingwood’s selection in the 2015 draft, Tom Phillips, is no exception.
Phillips was a standout throughout his two years in the TAC Cup with Oakleigh, winning two premierships and becoming a favourite at the club.
The boy from the eastern suburbs was a key player for senior coach Mick Stinear.
“Tommy played three years here, including an over-age year and became our most important player,” Stinear told AFLplayers.com.au.
“He was regularly winning games for us with at least 30 touches and multiple goals week in and week out.”
Described as ‘quirky’ by his former coach, he was an essential player due to his versatility.
He became known around the club for shutting down an opposition player while still having the ability to collect 30 possessions of his own.
Phillips has shown in his 13-game AFL career that he can run a game out with ease and his former coach sees shades of another AFL iron man in him.
“I’d say he’s a Tom Scully-type player, he has that ability to run all day.”
Somewhat overlooked in the draft process as an over-age player, Phillips had to find other ways to stand out in the minds of selectors.
He got his chance to impress when he was selected for Port Melbourne in a game against Collingwood at senior VFL level and was the best player on the ground for Port.
It was perhaps that performance that led to Collingwood selecting him with pick 56 the next year.
Stinear describes Phillips as a bit of an all rounder that can use the ball effectively on both sides of his body — but what he liked most about him was his flexibility on the field.
“His ability to play in any position is really impressive, he can shut down and completely take away an opposition player and then exploit that and provide a team with lots of run which is massive.”
Throughout his time with the Chargers, Phillips was a leader in the team and instilled the motto of ‘grit’ among his teammates.
It was that determination that helped him land on an AFL club’s list and is seen in his playing style.
“His biggest strength is to get stuck in and keep going when things get tough — when everyone else is tired and can’t run anymore — he’s typically just getting going,” Stinear explained.
“That work ethic is one of his biggest weapons — his never say die attitude is a big part of what’s propelled him forward.”
Spending an extra year in the TAC Cup allowed Phillips to fully develop into an AFL level player and he is now reaping the rewards.
Pick 56 appears to be a steal for Collingwood given the Round 9 Rising Star nominee’s current form, and Stinear says he is well equipped for a long career.
“His work ethic and endurance are made to keep up with the modern game and with a personality like his, he was just made for an AFL environment.”
Despite being a standout all year, there was one game that stuck out in Stinear’s mind.
“There was a game in the middle of the season where he had 40 touches and kicked at least three goals and after the game he was exhausted,” Stinear recalled.
“We discussed him having a rest the next week but that week he called me and he decided he was going to play through and he took his game to an even higher level and never looked back.
“He couldn’t have had less than 30 touches and two goals a game for the rest of the season but on top of that he increased his tackle numbers and he became the complete player you see now.”
Phillips’ father, Anthony, is still at Oakleigh as a skills coach and is keeping everyone at the club, particularly Stinear, informed on the Collingwood young gun.
RISING STAR NOMINEES IN 2017:
Round 1 — Sam Powell-Pepper (Port Adelaide)
Round 2 — Ryan Burton (Hawthorn)
Round 3 — Brandan Parfitt (Geelong)
Round 4 — Andrew McGrath (Essendon)
Round 5 — Eric Hipwood (Brisbane)
Round 6 — Caleb Marchbank (Carlton)
Round 7 — Sam Petrevski-Seton (Carlton)
Round 8 — Tim Taranto (GWS)