Erin Phillips poses for a photo on November 8, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

ACROSS her career, Erin Phillips earned practically every accolade on offer in the AFLW.  

Three premierships, two AFLW best and fairest awards, two Grand Final best on ground medals, the list goes on. But no week in her AFLW career has been bigger for the retiring star than the one heading into her final game

"Leading up to my last game, it was probably one of the biggest weeks of my life to be honest," Phillips told Credit to the Girls

"Announcing it on the Tuesday, but even before that, telling my teammates, coming to terms with it myself." 

The concept of legacy has surrounded Phillips since she returned to Australia to play in the inaugural AFLW season in 2017. Following in her father's footsteps back to the sport she loved as a kid was her story. 

Until then, Phillips had been in the USA, entrenched in the WNBA as a player, then a coach. The move back to Australia was a change not just for her, but for wife Tracy. 

"Tracy and I… we met as athletes, so we've only known each other as athletes and supported each other as athletes, and I was lucky enough that down the track she started following me around the world," Phillips said. 

"When football came about, and she was pregnant with twins at the time, and I said, 'how would you feel if we moved from America and basketball, and we go back to Australia to play football?' Any sane partner would say you're crazy, we're not doing this. 

"She was so supportive, she just said it's your passion, and I know if you don't do this, you'll have huge regrets." 


She notes that Tracy is now a hardcore AFLW fan, and would have been "quite happy" if Phillips had signed on for another five years. 

Phillips' signing was one of the key stories heading into that first AFLW season, but then it became about her on-field prowess. Stunning in her debut game in round one of 2017 where she kicked three goals and put the competition on notice. 

Already a professional athlete coming into the program, Phillips had experience that few other players did, which allowed her to set herself apart from the others. 


"Girls hadn't even picked up weights before and still managed to play great footy," Phillips said. 

"Now we're seeing this is kind of the norm and they're just continuing to raise the bar and push this game higher and higher. It's exciting to see, I'm 38 and I'm seeing girls coming in and training alongside of us that are 20 years younger than me and just shaking my head, just saying how awesome is this next generation, this is going to be so much fun to watch." 

But it was the work of players like Phillips and other footy pioneers that allowed the likes of her recent teammates Matilda Scholz and Abbey Dowrick to come through and hit the ground running. 

For Phillips, being someone to push the game forward was "definitely a responsibility". 

"It's good pressure, and it's something that you shouldn't shy away from having the opportunity to be able to, if you can, help a situation, help a league, a team, a player," Phillips said. 

Part of that push forward was the 2019 Grand Final. Hosted at Adelaide Oval, the Crows were the most dominant team the competition had seen to that point, and their fans knew it.

The official attendance of 53,034 people displayed during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final on March 31, 2019. Picture: AFL Photos

Playing that game, and seeing the crowd grow to the record 53,034 people over the afternoon, is a memory that will stay with Phillips forever. 

"I literally still get goosebumps and the hair raises on the back of my neck," Phillips said of that day. 

"I remember going out for my first warm up and there were a lot of people coming in. I knew it was going to be a good crowd, and I start having set shots and you know, I go back in underneath (to) the changeroom. You get your taping and whatever, massage and stuff like that, and come back out to have a second warm up with the team. 

"I'm doing another set shot pretty much in a similar place and I look up in the rafters that were empty when I was there for my first warmup were full. 

"Still to this day I remember before the very first bounce just the roar of the crowd, and always being on the other side of it in the stands looking at football going 'God, what would that be like to play in front of that many people', to then actually be in that moment and to hear the crowd. It was just electric." 

Later that afternoon, Phillips would rupture her ACL yet still win the best on ground medal. As she was being carted off the ground there was an air of inevitability about a potential retirement, not just from the stands, but for Phillips herself. 

Chelsea Randall (left) and Erin Phillips embrace during the 2019 AFLW Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

"There's always that in the back of your mind, 'is this it? Can I get back?' I was just about to turn 34 at the time and I had two kids at the time, had the twins, Drew was on his way, and it was difficult because I didn't really know what would come next," Phillips said. 

"Basically, we won the flag, I had to go back to the United States, I was still coaching the Dallas Wings at the time as an assistant coach, went straight back into a coaching role, I was trying to balance rehabbing a knee and coaching over in the best league in the world in basketball, and I didn't know how else to rehab other than to get myself back to perform at the highest level. 

"So, I thought, I'm just going to give it a go, I want to keep playing and if I do, awesome, if I don't, at least I can say I actually genuinely gave it a shot." 


Giving it a shot meant Phillips was able to get back to her best, win another flag and then continue her father's legacy at Port Adelaide. 

"I still pinch myself today of how lucky and fortunate I am to have played at two great clubs. That means so much to me, and then to start off with the Crows and to finish at Port. To wear my dad's number, it's just, it's ridiculous," Phillips said. 

Now she will look ahead to presenting the best on ground medal to this year's winner, a chance now to pass her legacy on to the next generation. 

And what does retirement have in store for the star? 

"I don't know what retirement looks like, so if anyone's got any suggestions, hit me up."