sports

From a knee injury to a new baby: Erin Phillips on the year that almost broke her, and her return to AFL.

Toyota
Thanks to our brand partner, Toyota

When two-time AFLW Premiership-winning footy player Erin Phillips heard her knee crack during the 2019 NAB AFL Women’s Grand Final, you’d think the first thing that would go through her head would be about the game.

But instead, her mind went to where most mothers’ minds go when they find themselves facing a debilitating injury.

“I knew I had done my knee straight away. I mean, it was a very loud distinctive pop,” Erin tells Mamamia. “It’s funny what comes into your mind straight away because mine was devastation but then it was ‘How am I going to run around and chase the kids?’'”

The 34-year-old AFLW star wasn’t just worried about her children, three-year-old twins Brooklyn and Blake and their six-month-old Drew – but also the added pressure it would place on her wife, Tracy Gahan.

“I wasn’t going to be good enough for my kids for the next few weeks because I was going to be sitting on the couch and I was going to need surgery… and I just felt pure guilt for Tracy,” Erin says.

“It’s hard enough being parents, I mean we had two kids at the time and we already felt outnumbered and another baby coming in July and I just thought, ‘What have I done, this is going to make her life so much harder’ and I felt like such a burden on everybody. Mother’s guilt is amazing, it’s really next level.”

View this post on Instagram

Merry Christmas Everyone. ❤ #phillips5

A post shared by Erin Phillips (@erinphillips131) on

And the mother’s guilt extended past her immediate family. Erin’s teammates were also looking to her for her strong leadership, a role she has performed so well as co-captain of the Adelaide Crows AFLW side with Chelsea Randall. The women have both been named to lead the group again in 2020 despite both being on the injured list.

Erin says she feels like mum of the group, and even has the car to back it up, one she was able to secure through long-time presenting sponsor of the game and official AFLW auto partner Toyota.

“I’m currently driving a Toyota Granvia, which is the biggest people mover that’s not a commercial truck I think. Everyone thinks I pick up the team for training like I do drop off, it’s become a bit of a joke around the team at the moment,” Erin shares.

Toyota has supported the AFL for more than 15 years, and last year raised just under $400,000 for grassroots football clubs with their Good for Footy raffle.

In 2020, Toyota will further its commitment to AFLW with its GFF Gear program, providing 100 local women’s teams across Australia with uniforms designed specifically for women. It’s an extension of Toyota’s Good for Cricket program launched in late 2019, which saw 100 women’s cricket clubs around Australia receive $150,000 worth of equipment.

The Toyota Good for Footy Grants Program (GFF) means female footy players won’t need to wear hand-me-down footy gear from men’s teams that don’t fit or meet uniform requirements. The message is that women’s sport is not an afterthought – it’s a priority.

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s this kind of support that helps inspire the next generation of players just like Erin.

And there’s a lot to look up to. 2019 was a big year for the Phillips clan – Erin won her second Premiership despite the busted knee and backed it up with another best and fairest win at the W Awards, the second time she has taken the honour in the three years the competition has been running.

There are now calls for the dual winner to have the medal named after her, something she says her Dad, former Port Adelaide SANFL Premiership player Greg Phillips would happily claim as his legacy.

“He’ll probably want it called the Phillips medal so he can really say it’s named after him. I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am without him, so happy to share it,” Erin tells us.

On top of the wins, Phillips has built a new house, travelled back to the US to keep doing her other job as an assistant coach for her basketball team the Dallas Wings, had another baby and all while going through rehab to hopefully get her back to full fitness in time for the siren heralding the opening of the 2020 AFLW season.

“You know what 2019 was meant to be? The year of simplicity, that was our goal,” Erin says while laughing at the irony of it all. “I think that’s an epic fail.”

“I think 2020, the year of simplicity Take 2 is just to get back out on the field. My biggest motivator to get back and play is still 1) that I love playing and 2) to play as many games as I can in front of my kids so they can watch me like I used to watch Dad. It’s so important to me and I know the importance of being a role model for younger kids.”

As much as she seems keen to reach her 2020 goal of simplicity, she’s also just signed on to co-host a breakfast radio show in Adelaide to fill in for a member who’s on maternity leave.

Erin still has a lot of rehab to get through before she’s ready to hit the field. In the mean time, she’s using one of her greatest lessons of motherhood to get her through.

“Tracey and I haven’t slept properly in nearly three years so why start now?” she says. “You just learn to be tired, just get through and just get it done.”

Yes Erin Phillips, mothers everywhere definitely relate to that.

The AFLW 2020 season, in partnership with Toyota, kicks off on February 7 with Richmond taking on Carlton at Ikon Park for the Tiger’s first game since joining the competition. The season will run for eight home and away rounds with three weeks of finals wrapping up with the Grand Final on Saturday April 18.

Feature image: Getty.

Toyota

Toyota are very proud to support female footy teams around Australia and this year are giving 100 teams brand-new uniforms designed specifically for women players. Teams can apply for a Toyota Good for Footy Gear Grant to help pay for new footy jumpers and shorts. It is all part of the Toyota Good for Footy program, and it is just a small way that we can help keep women and girls playing footy for years to come, and build stronger communities together.

00:00 / ???