Cricket

One on One with: Wayne Phillips

Wayne Phillips has done just about everything in his cricket career. He’s made hundreds for Australia, won the Sheffield Shield and coached some of South Australia’s most recognisable modern day cricketers. He went One on One with Tom Staggard to talk about his career.

Tom Staggard: Where did you grow up and how did you start playing cricket?

Wayne Phillips: I’ve always been locally-based just south of Adelaide, in Cumberland Park, and I started playing my cricket at Westbourne Park Primary School.

At that age, it was very much cricket in the summer and footy in the winter.

My brother and I both played and we really enjoyed it.

I went off to high school to Daws Road (Pasadena) High School and had a couple of years at Scotch College.

TS: Following on from your early years, you eventually go the call up to the state side. What was it like when you first broke into the SOuth Australian lineup on the domestic scene?

WP: It was pretty neat.

I played a bit of underage stuff and I guess I’d been noticed, but with World Series Cricket and players like the Chappells and Hooksey (David Hookes) all went to World Series so it created a few spaces in the South Australian side.

I played a few underage games and then got called up to the state side and it was just fantastic fun.

To go out on the Adelaide Oval and represent your state was pretty special.

TS: You won the Sheffield Shield in the 1981/82 season, what do you remember of that season and what was it like to win the biggest domestic title in the country?

WP: We had a fantastic side and it was led so well by Hooksey.

We had a really tight side, Rick Darling and myself opening and then Jeff Crowe at three, so we had some pretty good numbers to give our bowlers a good chance to get at the opposition.

We just played in such a positive way, under Hooksy’s leadership, and having to win the last game against Victoria at the Adelaide Oval and chase them down was pretty neat.

To be there when Jeff Crowe hit the single to win the game and, ultimately, the Shield, it was a pretty special memory for me, that’s for sure.

TS: You mentioned David Hookes, now you were very close with him. What was he like as both a player and a person?

WP: Oh, I mean, firstly, as a player he was outstanding.

I mean a truly world class player.

He played with aggression and used his talent so very, very well.

But as a leader, he was certainly the best captain I’d ever played under.

He was always about playing in a positive way to try and win the game.

It was really important to him to do everything to win the game.

He was just so supportive and kept that encouragement coming.

It was a terrible situation to be in standing next to him when that fateful night occurred 15 years ago now.

It was a horrible situation and I miss him terribly.

TS: What do you remember about what happened that night with Hooksey?

WP: Well, look I still have quite a vivid memory of what happened.

I was the coach of the South Australian side at the time and we were in Melbourne, we’d played a one day game against Victoria at the MCG and we did what we always did after a game and went out and had a beer with the opposition.

We talked about the game and watched the cricket on TV where the Australians won and yeah it really was a horrible night.

I still get goosebumps when it is even mentioned.

It was a rotten thing and I remember it terribly well, as well as the ensuing court case.

It was a truly awful time.

TS: When you broke into the test side you made your top score, 159, on debut against Pakistan in the 1983/84 season. What was it like to make a ton in your first game in the Baggy Green?

WP: It’s difficult to be honest.

Doing it on debut I didn’t really know how to go about the celebrations.

I was pretty subdued and people who know me now can’t believe how subdued I was when I got the hundred.

I was in pretty good form so I was fortunate to be selected and then to play in that innings and get the runs that I did was great.

It was more about trying to win the game for Australia, that’s how I was brought up by Hooksey.

I was just focused on getting on with it and putting us in a position to win the game, which ultimately we did.

I look back now and look at the numbers of what I achieved and it really is very special.

The game was been wonderful to me and the game continues to be fantastic to me.

TS: You played under Allan Border and the story has been well told about ‘Captain Grumpy’ but how did you view his leadership and what was your relationship with him like?

WP: He was fantastic.

He inherited the role on the back of Kim’s sad resignation.

It landed on AB’s desk a little bit and he’d not done a lot of captaincy but he embraced it in the way which he went about things.

He didn’t say a lot but what he did was show so much.

He didn’t have to tell you how to do it, he’d just show you how to do it.

He’s been a great supporter of mine and we continue to get along really well.

He’s a ripper and I never had any issues with Captain Grumpy.

TS: You played in an Ashes tour over in England. What is like as a young Australian cricketer to step up to the plate and take on the old enemy over in the UK?

WP: Oh it’s honestly as good as it gets.

I didn’t quite realise the history of some of the contests which featured some of those real great players.

All of the grounds which recognise these players on the walls and being a part of that is really special.

To be able to meet the Queen at Lords or being at a function and having a chat to the late Princess Diana its just unreal.

A kid from Daws Road High is getting to chat to those people – you’re kidding me, aren’t you?

It’s the best tour a cricketer can go on and to do that in 1985 was incredible.

TS: You played a lot of roles throughout your career, at times you were a keeper, an opening batsman, a keeper-batsman and there was a lot of talk about where you fit best. How did you view your own style of play?

WP: I didn’t ever bookcase myself as one particular type of player.

My view was if I was getting a game, I was doing what I was asked to do.

If it happened to be with the gloves, or opening the batting, or down the list, I didn’t care because I was getting a game and I was pretty bloody happy about that.

Representing your country is the biggest thrill you can get so I wasn’t about to ask questions about the role I was asked to play.

TS: So there was never any uncertainty about where you fit into the side and that never had an impact on your game?

WP: I don’t think so.

Upon reflection, if I was given the choice I may have been a bit more forceful of the type of player I was.

But I just look back and think, I was getting a game for Australia, and I wasn’t going to complain about that and I never will.

TS: You mentioned your time as South Australian coach. It was an up and down time in the South Australian dressing room. How do you reflect on those years at the helm?

WP: Look it was devastating that we weren’t able to get any trophies but we were able to get some guys up to the national level which is what it’s all about.

We got beaten by New South Wales off virtually the last ball at the Adelaide Oval in the one day final which was disappointing.

It was great fun and we had a great group of young men.

You only have to look at Darren Lehmann, Jason Gillespie, Greg Blewett and Graham Manou to see how well some of the players did at the top level, but it definitely was disappointing not to grab any of the domestic trophies.

TS: In that situation as the coach of a domestic side, you’ve got these guys who want to do the very best for their state but they also have one eye on the national team. How do you balance that and keep their heads focused on what they’re doing at the state level?

WP: The focus needs to be on the team that they’re in.

If they’re performing to the best that they possibly can then they will get noticed and will get selected at the next level up.

So the focus is on what is there in front of you on the day and it has to be, and always will be, the primary focus of what you are trying to achieve.

If the guys kept performing then the national selectors would come knocking and say this is the guy we need.

But the focus always has to be on what’s before you on the day.

TS: You were a very free-flowing player, do you look back now and wish you had the opportunity to have a crack at the T20 game?

WP: Oh shit yeah, I would have dominated.

It’s a very exciting team and the players seem to enjoy it.

You see some great action, especially in some of the stroke play.

Some of the different strokes they’ve invented for that game are just amazing.

I reckon it would have been ok and it only goes for three hours so you could have a beer afterwards.

That’s not a bad night out if you ask me.

TS: What do you do with yourself these days?

WP: I’m still involved in the game.

I’m the South Australian representative of the Australian Cricketers Association, so we look after the past players, both male and female, who have played first class cricket and its a tremendous role.

I also do all the voiceovers at Adelaide Oval for the AFL games so part of that role is to just make sure everyone is aware of what is happening on game day for all of the AFL games.

I’m a proud grandparent now and things are going pretty good.

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Tom grew up in Adelaide’s northern suburbs and is our resident North American sports expert. Tom has experience as a working journalist and has a keen interest in basketball, ice hockey and American football, as well as cricket, soccer and football. He spent his junior cricket career at East Torrens District and has played for a number of football clubs across Adelaide’s north.