Women's NBA Star and Beijing Olympics silver medallist Erin Phillips left it to the final game to put on one of the most dominant individual performances of the inaugural Women' AFL season, helping the Adelaide Crows to victory over the undefeated Brisbane Lions. Phillips racked up a game-high 28 possessions, seven marks, seven tackles and two goals in what proved to be the decisive performance.
The final offered a suitably pulsating finish to an entertaining opening AFL Women's season. Local government and competition organisers stumped up for free tickets and public transport to the game giving 15,610 fans the chance to watch a historic day in Australian sport at Gold Coast's Metricon stadium.
With minutes remaining, the Lions edged to within five points of the Crows when Brisbane's Tayla Harris goaled deep into the final term to set up a grandstand finish. Try as they might, Brisbane fell short, with the Crows holding on to claim a hard-fought six-point victory.
Both teams were littered with the league's first batch of superstars; the likes of marquee Lions stars Harris, Emily Bates and Sabrina Frederick-Traub, along with Adelaide's Sarah Perkins, Courtney Cramey and Kellie Gibson. Ultimately, it was former professional basketballer Erin Phillips that proved the difference. Remarkably her last competitive game of footy prior to this season was as a teenager. She is now pushing 32 years of age, has a wife and twins, and is a champion basketballer that was part of the Australian silver medal-winning team at the Beijing Olympics. Talk about a triple threat.
Even her rivals were left speechless. Melbourne Demons captain Daisy Pearce is seen by many as the best female footy player in Australia but said she could only shake her head at Phillips' form.
"I often shake my head at how easy she makes it look," Pearce said. "I know she's a great athlete and she would have learned a lot about elite sport through playing basketball, but that doesn't teach you how to kick goals like that on an AFL football field in a grand final."
Think of high-profile cross-code converts like Jarryd Hayne, Karmichael Hunt, and maybe even Israel Folau. All are incredible athletes but when it comes to the crunch, they haven't been able to follow through. Phillips has. She is agile, never fumbles with ball in hand, and her footy vision is video-game good. She also has one of the biggest boots in the game and is even one of just three players to kick a goal from outside 50.
It shouldn't come as a surprise. Erin is the daughter of Greg Phillips, who played 343 games with Port Adelaide in the SANFL and 84 VFL games for Collingwood. An eight-time premiership winner with Port Adelaide, Greg made sure his love of footy was passed on to his daughter. With no professional women's footy league, Greg proudly watched on as she became one of Australia's finest basketballers. However, when the AFLW arrived this year, everything changed, and now it's all about Erin.
She also capped off her impressive AFLW season by being voted as the AFLW players' most valuable player. The award, which is voted on by fellow players, saw Phillips dominate with 204 votes, ahead of Melbourne midfielder Karen Paxman (149 votes) and the league's leading goal-kicker, Carlton's Darcy Vescio (132).
A two-time WNBA champion, Phillips will return to the United States next month to begin her WNBA preseason. Now, though, she is a footy hero, just like her father before her.
"I love the game. It has been part of my life since I was born. My parents are with me, my family, my wife is here to support me," Phillips told Channel 7 after the grand final.
"It's the best game in the world and I'm so happy to share it with this club and my family."