Footy was Erin Phillips’ chosen sport but it denied her the path of her dreams.
As a teenager, the biggest stage for Erin to show her football skills were annual appearances in the Slowdown charity games in the early 2000s.
Then basketball took over, allowing her to carve out an impressive international career highlighted by a 2006 World Championships gold medal, a 2008 Olympic silver medal and two WNBL titles with Indiana Fever and Phoenix Mercury.
Suddenly, however, Australian football is back as an option for the 31-year-old daughter of Port Adelaide and South Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee Greg Phillips.
“It’s definitely been a lifelong ambition,” Phillips said from Dallas, where she has returned to finish the basketball season before heading home to Adelaide to join the Crows women’s squad.
“I’ve basically wanted to play football since I was born, having grown up in a sporting family watching dad play football professionally. Although 31 years later I get this opportunity, I’m just really grateful it’s come now.
“To kind of follow in his footsteps is just an amazing thing, something that I’m really excited about.”
Despite the strong family ties to Port Adelaide, Phillips said the opportunity to spend time back in Adelaide and be involved in the inaugural national women’s competition was too good to ignore.
“When Port didn’t get the licence for a women’s team I honestly thought that was it, my time had passed at playing football,” she said.
“Then when the Adelaide Crows contacted me I was just so blown away how professional they were and how committed they were, not only just in getting me to play but how committed they were to the women’s game itself.
“They want to be the club of choice to not just young girls but young women to aspire to, whether they want to play football or whether they want to be a coach or work in administration.
“I’ve been welcomed with open arms and my family is really excited that after nine years of being away that I get to play a sport that I love in my home town.”
Phillips, who nominated for a women’s draft for an AFL exhibition game in 2013 even though she knew she couldn’t play because of basketball commitments, is confident that her teenage football skills will return with some work.
“I give that credit to dad who kicked lot of footballs at me and I always wanted to practice my skills … that was something that I loved doing and football came really naturally to me,” she said.
“It’s by no means the end of my basketball career. It’s something that, after the disappointment in Rio, I thought this was a really good opportunity to have a change of pace and do something different and like I said fulfil a lifelong dream.
“I honestly think that this (AFL) season) is going to bring me back refreshed to the 2017 season with Dallas. I‘m just so excited, I think it’s going to be great.”
Phillips, whose sister Amy is married to Hawthorn star Shaun Burgoyne, believes the launch of the new women’s league will have a major impact on the next generation of football supporters.
“I don’t think we fully will know the significance yet, we are kind of just brushing the surface of how big this league can be,” she said.
“Already there has been so much attention and lots of positivity towards it and I think it’s going to be huge.
“It’s another pathway for young women who want to become athletes. It’s fantastic.
“It’s a great sport, I think it’s Australia’s greatest sport. I’m very proud of our code and I definitely think we will see a lot of athletes from other sports transition over. And hopefully they can do both, it’s a short league and it opens up the potential for athletes to do both sports.”
Thought my dream to play footy in SA was gone. Unbelievably grateful for this incredible opportunity the @Adelaide_FC has given me.— Erin Phillips (@erinphillips131) September 13, 2016