Greg and Erin Phillips (Picture: PAFC, Design by Will Cuckson)

Greg Phillips became a household name playing for Port Adelaide from 1967 through to 1993 after a stint with the Collingwood Magpies in the VFL.

His daughter Erin has become a global sporting star in the basketball scene, playing in the WNBA and WNBL as well as becoming an Olympian for Australia. She rounded this out by fulfilling her dream of playing Aussie Rules football at the highest level for the Adelaide Crows and now Port Adelaide.

This is how Erin carried and continues to carry on her father’s legacy at the club where she grew up at.

Playing 343 games for Port Adelaide in the SANFL competition, Greg Phillips is a South Australian football legend. Lifting the premiership cup eight times as a player and once as captain, Phillips was inducted into both the South Australian and the Australian Football Hall of Fame.

Greg Phillips (Picture: PAFC/Website)

Despite his much-decorated career, one of his biggest achievements is brought to the fore in the form of his daughters, one of them the now famous star footballer in her own right, Erin Phillips.

Making her way in the AFLW competition rocketed her onto the radars of sporting fans across the country. However her story began at Port Adelaide, running out with her father as a child, Phillips could only dream of playing like her dad.

Flash-forward into her seventh season of AFL Women’s, Phillips is now arguably the best player that has come through the league but it hasn’t come easily, spending time off with two ACL injuries and some time away from football.

Playing football was not a reality for Phillips as it was her dad, due to the lack of pathways for women. This led her to basketball, where she played for the West Adelaide Bearcats in the state league and led to her debut for the Adelaide Lightning at 17 years old.

As of 2019, she still ranks 10th all-time for the Lightning in points, assists, rebounds, and steals.

Clearly a talented basketballer, five years into her WNBL career, she was named to the All-WNBL Team three times. In 2008, she won a WNBL championship with the Lightning before she was noticed by eyes overseas, those of the Connecticut Sun in the WNBA.

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Her basketball career took her all over the world, most notably as a two-time WNBA champion with the Indiana Fever, Los Angeles Sparks, and Phoenix Mercury. She also won a gold medal for Australia at the 2006 FIBA World Championships.

In between her stints in Connecticut and Indiana, Phillips honed her craft over in the Israeli, Polish, and Slovakian basketball leagues.

After finishing playing with the Dallas Wings, Phillips became the Wings’ director of player and franchise development at the beginning of the 2017 WNBA season. She finished up at the end of the 2019 season to fully follow her AFLW aspirations.

Phillips speaks about the sacrifices that his daughter made to chase her dreams in basketball.

“[It’s not] only in football but when she was away from us for over ten years, playing basketball overseas or going on her own and travelling around Europe, playing in Israel and Poland, just to play a sport because she didn’t have footy,” he said.

“[So] for everything to come back around and how her life has come to the game she loved, I’m just very emotional because I know how hard she worked at what she’s done and how she’s had to keep doing things that she loved. To finish her career off playing football has been the absolute cream on the cake.”

Joining the Adelaide Football Club in 2017 as a category B rookie, Phillips started to realise her dream albeit at a different club to her father.

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Phillips shone in the inaugural season becoming an AFLW premiership co-captain, Adelaide Crows Club Champion, the AFLW league Best and Fairest, and featuring in the All-Australian squad. Added to this were the Goal of the Year, a Best on Ground medal in the Grand Final, and the AFLW MVP award.

Throughout her career at the Crows until season six (first season of 2022), she added two premierships (2019 and 2022), one club champion (2019), All-Australian honours (2019 and 2021), one league Best and Fairest (2019), an AFLW player MVP award (2019), and another Best on Ground medal in the Grand Final (2019).

To say the least, she left Adelaide with a lot of love for the club and its supporters even though she departed for the rival Port Adelaide.

The Inner Sanctum spoke exclusively to Greg Phillips about the impact that his daughter has had on the competition and the pride he has for the work she has put in to make her dream a reality.

“The AFLW when it first came in, I thought it was good but I didn’t think it was going to be as strong and as empowering as what it is,” Phillips said.

“But certainly now seeing all the people going to the club, even with Crows when Erin was there and seeing it at Alberton, all these young boys, and young girls. All these girls playing footy and sport, it’s just what Erin’s done and the way the AFLW has grown.

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Phillips says it’s not only her impact on the AFLW itself but the participation rates of the lower leagues that he is seeing his daughter’s work through a different lens.

“It’s just been an unbelievable ride, just seeing all these girls continuing to grow in numbers and playing for different clubs around the country and South Australia.

“I’m just excited because I get a kick out of all the little boys and girls that come down to get an autograph or say hello and that’s the thing that I like and that she’s (Erin) made her own name about it.

“Whether that be winning all the awards or premierships, it’s just been a credit to her because I know how hard she’s worked.

He spoke about the shift that Alberton has undergone to facilitate an AFLW club and what it means for his daughter to carry the mantle.

“It was just overwhelming and it was just exciting for me, you know because I think I’ve been very, very lucky to have played in my 340-odd games,” Phillips explained.

“To play in nine grand finals and to win eight with a lot of players from 1967 to 1993. When I played, just the off-field and the afterwards, the club has just been fantastic.

“To be involved with Port Adelaide, it’s been a big part of my life and now Erin sort of continuing that on, I’m just very excited and it’s a very proud moment.”

As one of the older football clubs in Australia, Phillips spoke about how impressed he’s been with his club’s integration of the AFLW program and how entrenched the Phillips family is at Alberton.

“It’s just exciting to see all the changes at the club now. The old grandstand at Port Adelaide is now the women’s changerooms and now it’s just the modern era and just a professional club for these women to better their futures,” he said.

“It’s just been exciting for my wife and I because even though 1976 was a while ago, we’ve just made so many friends and I’ve got three daughters and naturally they all love footy.

“We’ve been involved at [the] Port Adelaide Football Club for a long time, the whole family has been around the Port Adelaide Football Club growing up.

“We’ve been invested with great times and premierships and all the kids knew Russell Ebert and Erin even worked with Russell, it was just all part of the history of the club and part of it all.

“Whether that be Bruce Light or [Nathan] Buckley or Craig Bradley, Gavin Wanganeen, Andrew McLeod, you know all these champion players that have come through, the kids have always been involved and [are] friends of everybody. From Timmy Ginever, just so many from the 70s to the 80s to the 90s and we’ve sort of kept the legacy going in our own rights.”

After being given the captaincy of the football club for its inaugural season, Greg was the first to find out when his daughter revealed it to him at Alberton.

“I think I was just pretty excited at her just coming back to play,” he explained.

“At 37 [years old], I thought that maybe they might [have] gone with someone else who might have four or five years captaincy but it was just sweet and I was just over the moon. Not only because I played for them but because as a kid, she did love Port Adelaide and being at the club.”

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