A Port Adelaide and Collingwood champion, and a father to the best female footballer in the country, Greg Phillips has graced our game in more ways than one. He went One on One with Jack Hudson.
Jack Hudson: Take us back to your childhood, what was it like and where’d you play your juniors?
Greg Phillips: I’m a west coast boy from South Australia, I grew up in a place called Minnipa, on the highway one to Perth, just before Ceduna.
I was there until my parents shifted us to Port Lincoln, we played school footy and played for Lincoln South there.
I went to Port Adelaide when I was about 16.
JH: What was it like going to Port?
GP: It was a bit of a shock being a country boy moving to the city.
I barracked for Sturt as a kid and we had no TV, just listened to the radio.
I think in ’59 and ’60 Sturt were very good so we jumped on as kids.
It was a good lifestyle living on the farm and learning to drive and help dad with sheep, cattle and pigs.
It was a mix of farming duties.
JH: You made your debut in 1976, what was that like being so young and playing senior football?
GP: Playing my first game was pretty exciting, Russell Ebert, Bruce Light and the late Randall Gerlach, were in that side.
There were some real good heroes, it was exciting, bubbly and I was running around like a chook with his head chopped off.
JH: You played in your first flag as an 18-year-old – what was that like?
GP: That was unbelievable.
1976 was my first year when Sturt beat us in the grand final, it was a good turn around in 1977 to be involved in a winning one.
Back then, the Port Adelaide Magpies tens of thousands of people would come back to the club to celebrate winning a premiership.
It was just something that blew my mind away, the supporters were very strong, they certainly loved Port Adelaide.
JH: You played in another three premierships before you moved to Collingwood – what do you remember about them?
GP: The best thing about it is the players, Bobby Whatman, Trevor Sorrell and the guys like that.
It’s great to have like Tony Giles, Mark Williams, Stephen Williams.
You grow with all the players and the champions of the club, they played a lot of games.
The thing that I loved the most about it was meeting and playing with so many good players at Port Adelaide, that’s really the highlight of it.
The question always gets thrown up about which year was the best, and I say you can’t say it, because there’s so many good players you’ve met, made great friendships and you enjoy the success together.
It was just a dream come true the way things turned out.
JH: You were an All-Australian in 1980 and a Fos Williams Medallist in 1982 – what did State of Origin mean to you?
GP: I was lucky enough to play 20 state games, and that was the same scenario in that you get to play with the opposition’s best players.
You have this thing where you don’t like Glenelg but you still see Peter Carey and (Graham) Cornes, they all of a sudden become team-mates in State of Origin.
To play with them, that was a highlight of my life and we still have these SANFL reunions with the 200 Club and it’s always good to catch up with them.
I was proud because back in those days against the Victorians, they were very strong.
They didn’t like losing, but when SA did get over the line and rub their noses in the mud a bit it was always good.
It was exciting times and a great ride.
JH: Do you believe State of Origin has a place in today’s footy if it were to come back?
GP: I do, you look at the rugby league they still have the players that want to play it and the crowds still go with it.
The club’s real concern is if they get any injuries to their top players, some of them on a million dollars a year, they’d make a state of origin side.
There’s always that thing in the back of the mind whether they’d let them play or not.
I would love it to come back, and not just Victoria and South Australia, but Western Australia and those sides as well.
I’m like everyone else, I’d love to see it but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
JH: How did the move to Collingwood come about?
GP: I ended up making a move with my wife to give it a go, it was 1983-1986.
I think in those days when you used to watch ‘The Winners’ and so on, it was the best city of football then and SA wasn’t far behind.
It was just a thing in my mind that I wanted to give a go.
It was great because I had John Cahill coach their for two years, then Bob Rose and Leigh Matthews, also it was a good time.
We had a good side, but we weren’t quite good enough to win a flag.
But I was lucky enough to come back and win a few more in Adelaide.
JH: You returned in 1987, what was it like coming back?
GP: It was good because we were coming back to family for one, and coming back to a club that I had played with in the past.
I was joining players like Tim Ginever, George Fiacchi and Roger Delaney, all these other guys that I had been playing good footy with the Magpies.
It was good to come back and fit in there, I was lucky enough to be involved in another few more premierships and captain the side at the end of my career.
Then Port got into the AFL, so it all timed well.
I ended up only playing 84 games with Collingwood, and could’ve made the 100, but I made the choice to come back and I got pretty lucky to winning another four grand finals.
JH: How did it feel to come back and win four flags?
GP: I came back and Russell Ebert was the coach and we only had him for one more year, then John Cahill came back into the role.
I thought Ebert was unlucky he didn’t keep coaching but when Jack came in it seemed everything just fit into place.
It was like the early days in the 70s and the early 80s.
Then the late 80s got to continue the good work.
It was great, I always look back and see the great players I played with with the Magpies, it’s been a tremendous ride.
Being involved and winning premierships is great, but you don’t lose your mates.
JH: What was Jack like as a coach?
GP: He ended up coaching 10 winning premierships, and I was involved with eight of them as a player and two as his assistant coach.
I knew Jack probably better than Jack knew himself.
I think he was a great motivator and great with setting your goals and give you the opportunity to do it.
He’d not only support me but support the other players.
He used to back them in and give them advice.
Football has changed naturally with all the defensive players, running back, but I think John picked his team well, played to his advantages, and I think most of us enjoyed success earlier, we knew how when the final pressure was on to stand up in the pressure of the moment.
That’s always what he wanted, he was always very strong and very demanding.
His success even as a player, he blended that into all us players, he’s a good coach and his record speaks for itself.
JH: How did it feel to have the title of premiership captain next to your name?
GP: When you look back with Williams, Quinn, Cahill, Ebert, the names that’s on the number one locker, it was fantastic to be just captain but to win the premiership as the captain, it really puts the cream on the cake.
I had a lot of good players underneath me that had the same belief and goals that I did.
It wasn’t hard being captain back in my day with such good players.
I enjoyed it, and my whole family got behind me, we all enjoyed the success together.