Will Phillips will be making his debut for North Melbourne in the Good Friday clash against the Western Bulldogs.
Beverley Hills was Will’s junior club where he played well over 100 games including a few Grand Final victories. He participated in the Metro Development Series representing the YJFL in 2015, 16 & 17 and then moved to Oakleigh Chargers to further his football development.
Will was then drafted at pick 3 in the 2020 National Draft to North Melbourne where he was soon presented the number 29 guernsey from 432 game club legend, Brent Harvey.
The YJFL caught up with Will a day before the national draft in 2020.
What’s your first memory of playing in the YJFL?
I played Auskick at Beverly Hills Junior footy club right from the get-go. I think I was about four when I started and then I remember my first game out at Zerbes Reserve, our home ground, against Surrey Park and we got the win by about 60 points or something like that. It was good to come away with the win and a good start to my career in the YJFL.
With well over 100 games for Beverley Hills from tackers to the Under 15 age what did you enjoy most about your time with Beverley Hills?
It was like a home to me. My dad played there so I came in with a bit of history at the club. There’s a lot of great people around that club. I think the president was Anthony Phillips from when I was there at the start and then moved to Jim Pahos who were both great people and Anthony Phillips has become a great mentor of mine. It also gave me an opportunity to grow and develop my football as well as develop myself as a person. I remember captaining sides, the family days on Sunday nights when we would have a roast put on for players and their families. It was just a real sense of belonging at the club and I’m really grateful for all they’ve given to me.
Are there any coaches or teammates that you have fond memories of or any stories?
I remember Woody (Nick Woodell) kicking a goal to put us in front of Kew Rovers with not long to go and about 50 out, and that was a fond memory. As I mentioned Anthony Phillips was pivotal in my development. My dad coached a couple of premierships, including one that we won in overtime which was pretty special. We were probably underdogs. We didn’t have a lot of depth in that team that year and came up against Kew Comets who were really strong that year and it was a surprise to come away with the win that was in overtime. It was forty-two all, no forty-six to forty two in the end and we just couldn’t believe it. It was one of the greatest moments of my life. It’s always good winning grand finals.
You spent three years playing in the Yarra representative system what are your memories about that time and how did it feel to pull on the black and teal Yarra guernsey?
It felt great. There were a lot of great coaches that were involved in those pathways and I’m really grateful for their support and what they’ve given to me and my football. I think my first memory of pulling on the teal and black were probably with Joey Mezgec in either the under fourteens or thirteens. It was the first real time that we had exposure to proper structures and game plan strategies. So, it gave me a taste for what that was like. It only went up from there. I don’t think I lost a grand final for the YJFL, I had some really good teammates and great coaching staff who really helped me to grow and brought team success to the YJFL.
How has being part of the YJFL system at your clubs and representative sides helped you become the player you are today?
The coaching was really cool. It’s a pretty high level of footy and the YJFL is known as one of the best leagues. For me it was surrounding myself with great people and great players who come together from all different clubs and play against some of the other best leagues around Melbourne. I think it just helped me to get a taste of what that high level of footy was like. I was probably challenged a bit more than I was at club footy which helped develop me in turn. I’m really grateful for those challenges because they made me a better person and a better player.
How do you think the YJFL and your time in the higher age divisions helped you when you moved into the Oakleigh Chargers system?
I think a lot of those coaches marry up with the coaches I had later on. Anthony Phillips was involved with the YJFL and then he was involved with the Chargers as well. It’s a nice transition from thirteens, fourteens, fifteens into sixteens Chargers. I’m really grateful for that, I think that high level of coaching really prepares you for that sort of professional environment at under 16 level. And it certainly prepared me for that. There was a higher level of professionalism required to represent the YJFL because it is such a strong competition. I couldn’t speak any more highly of that.
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You have been involved with a few recently drafted former YJFL players; Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson, Trent Bianco, Dylan Williams and Nick Bryan, have seeing those guys get picked up and starting their AFL careers given you any influence or motivation?
Most definitely, it gives me confidence that I played with them in 2019 and in the previous years, it gives me confidence that I can go on to be as good as them. I always had that self-belief, that I’m good enough to match it with the best and they were the best for me in 2019, the best from my development too. I try not to compare myself to people too often. I always try and focus on what I need to do to get better, as opposed to what or how I can model myself on someone else. Because I know my strengths and weaknesses. Certainly, playing with those guys who came through the YJFL was really cool. No doubt they all have good careers in the AFL.