Multi-sport trailblazer Erin Phillips has been hailed as one of Australia’s greatest athletes after announcing she will call time on more than two decades in elite sport following a farewell AFLW match this Saturday in Adelaide.
The 38-year-old will end her football career after 66 games, including 46 at the Adelaide Crows and 20 at Port Adelaide, the club she joined in their inaugural season last year and for whom her father Greg played for.
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Phillips also won a basketball silver medal for Australia at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, and won two titles over nine seasons in the WNBA in the US.
She said it was the right time to end her football career, and that she would give her body a rest and spend more time with her family before working out what the future holds for her.
“The biggest thing I would like to do is take a little bit of time out to evaluate what’s next,” Phillips said. “I have been in an elite sporting environment since I was 16 years of age, which is longer than some of my teammates have been alive.
“I’ve always had this three year plan, and for the first time it’s a little bit unknown – and I’m OK with that. It’s a little bit [scary] because I’ve always been a very driven person, always had my ducks in a row.”
Phillips will play her final AFLW game this Sunday in Port Adelaide’s clash against the Giants at Alberton Oval. Both clubs are out of finals’ contention.
Phillips was a high-profile recruit for the Crows after Port Adelaide decided not to initially field a side in the AFLW’s original competition in 2017. At the time she was still playing in the WNBA.
She was one of the stars of the new women’s league, was named co-captain of the Crows and was best-on-ground in Adelaide’s grand final victory over Brisbane.
Phillips repeated the feat in the 2019 triumph over Carlton, and added a third premiership in 2022. She was named an All-Australian three times and was recognised as the league’s best player by both the league and the players in 2017 and 2019.
Born in Melbourne and growing up in Adelaide, Phillips played only Australian rules football until age 13 but switched to basketball due a lack of professional pathways for women at the time.
“Erin was an outstanding junior footy player until she was prevented from playing footy as a girl,” AFL general manager of women’s football Nicole Livingstone said. “Coming back to the game after nine seasons in the WNBA – winning two championships and an Olympic silver medal for the Opals – Erin is one of Australia’s preeminent athletes.”
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Erin Phillips on stage after the 2019 AFLW grand final. Photograph: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
She debuted in the WNBL for the Adelaide Lightning at age 17 in 2002 and was named to the All-WNBL in her third season. That year she was drafted by Connecticut Sun in the WNBA and debuted the following season.
After suffering an ACL injury in 2007, she returned to the elite level and won her first WNBA title with Indiana Fever in 2012. She was traded to Phoenix Mercury in 2014 and led the league in three-point field goal percentage, shooting 44.9%, en route to her second WNBA crown.
Phillips has also worked an assistant coach in the WNBA and as a radio host.
AFL chief executive Andrew Dillon said Phillips retires as a “true champion of the AFLW”.
“She set elite standards as a foundation player in the competition and has won almost everything there is to win in the AFLW,” Dillon said. “Her unbelievable set of skills – kicking, marking, tackling and goal-scoring – were exemplary and she would always save her best for the big stage.”