#34 Andrew “Flipper” Phillips - flipping off the boots

from the age

The back-up ruck’s lot: Battling frenemies, uncertainty

Peter Ryan

Andrew Phillips isn’t the type of guy you’d describe as scary.

Carrying an easy smile, his eyes light up at the mention of his two toddlers, Ned and Toby, and his wife Teagan, who he married at a winery in their home state of Tasmania in 2019.

A qualified carpenter, he’s remodelled two vintage caravans, and renovated their house, mostly in his beloved German shorthaired pointer’s company.

And at three clubs over the past 12 seasons he somehow inhabited the back-up ruckman’s brutal world on the knife edge of selection without losing his mind.

Phillips jokes that he worked out he’d played 80-odd games in the AFL, 80-odd state league games and has about four years unaccounted for. Most can be explained through injury (a hamstring and navicular stress fracture the worst), non-selection or time as a carry-over emergency.

Despite his laid-back demeanour, Phillips didn’t just accept his lot.

He always pushed for senior selection and to dislodge the No.1 ruckman as he rode an emotional yo-yo when he was told week to week whether he was in or out of the team, a spot generally arising when the first ruckman was injured or the coach decided, for whatever reason, to play two rucks.

‘‘I guess it’s sort of just been the way my whole career has been,’’ Phillips said.

‘‘You spend a lot of time waiting for those opportunities.’’

At Carlton, where he landed after five years at the Giants, he began to look for reasons why selection wasn’t falling his way as often as he hoped.

‘‘After a while I started thinking, ‘Am I just an easy drop here because I take it so well?’ Part of me [thought] ‘Am I too nice? Am I taking this too well?’ ’’ He thrashed out the issue with senior coaches at Carlton [Brendon Bolton] and Essendon [Ben Rutten], respecting their viewpoint and eventually accepting that selection was, in many ways, out of his control.

‘‘I kept searching for answers and I kept trying to find, I don’t know … I kept sitting down with [Rutten] and I don’t know what answers I was trying to get out of him or what I wanted to hear,’’ Phillips said.

‘‘But that’s the hard truth. Selection is out of your control.’’

Phillips experience is the experience of many players on AFL lists, particularly among the rucking fraternity, a subset that can exist on lists for years in and out of the seniors, always battling for a spot on the weekends or against their frenemies at training.

The rivalry among rucking teammates generally remained unspoken, but he admits there were sessions where both knew the selection decision was 50/50.

He never stopped wanting to be the No.1 ruckman and his habit became to check hitout statistics before midfielders’ disposals or who kicked goals if he found himself poring over a stats sheet.

‘‘I was always pushing for that spot,’’ Phillips said.

As the years went on he began to live on one-year deals for the last four to five seasons of his career, often being one of the last players signed, early spring sometimes discussing with Teagan whether this was the summer they would move back to Tasmania.

Phillips is proud of what he achieved since the Giants picked him as a rookie as he was near completing the third year of his carpentry apprenticeship.

As he puts it, he was bashing a hammer in Tasmania on the Tuesday and running laps of Bicentennial Park in Sydney on Thursday.

And, despite the ups and downs he experienced, he’s enjoyed every minute of his time as an AFL player.

‘‘I’ve built really good relationships, and I’ve left on good terms with everyone and I still speak to and bump into people from across all three clubs and am excited to see them,’’ Phillips said.

Asked what advice he’d give to any rucks in his position right now, he keeps it real: ‘‘Your time to shine is going to come eventually. And whether it comes in your 13th year, you’re going to get your moment.’’

Essendon cult hero Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti will farewell the AFL for a second, and almost certainly last, time against Collingwood tonight.

McDonald-Tipungwuti retired briefly in May last year but returned to the Bombers this season. Tonight will be his seventh game of the season, taking his career tally to 133.

11 Likes

Big cheer for this bloke tonight, genuinely had a crack every time he ran out, thanks annd all the best to you and the family Flip.

18 Likes

Hasn’t nicked off to Tassie yet.

Also, van Loon rucking?!?

20 Likes

Signed for Lauderdale in TSL for next season playing under Allen Christenesen, apparently in talks with Mitch Robinson about joining also.

14 Likes

Will be good to see the big fella playing locally

4 Likes

What a legend.

1 Like

Ranga quotient just increased significantly. I wish Flipper well and Mitch Robbo as well if he does sign. Please keep us informed on how the team performs next year, now that we have a small stake in their future.

3 Likes

They probably want to have some involvement in AFL TAS going forward.
Always liked Robbo.

Kieran Lovell played in TSL final last week. same draft as Parish/ Francis/Gresham

1 Like

Flip is flipping

1 Like

Flipping hell!

I thought he was playing for Sydney.

23 Likes

Wouldnt be mad. Ended up leading to us netting Goldy. Flip is a hero.

1 Like

We should pick him up.

Goldy and flipper ruck duo.

Oh my.

5 Likes

Oldest ruck duo in the history of ever?

BRING!! I miss the big, unco galoot…

3 Likes

I actually wouldnt be against us picking him up if it didnt mean Bryan would likely decide then and there that he wants to be traded lol.

Thought Flip was good in more then a few games last year.

A bit late for April Fool’s Day.

I wonder if Ricky Mott might still be interested in pulling on the boots.

He wants to play again? Or this some journo BS

Been ruled out as ineligble for the mid season draft because hes been playing in Tassie.

Which is bullshit.

Fantastic bloke and deserves some more football if a club wants to throw him a spot

15 Likes

Because he’s been playing in Tassie?

What’s the reasoning behind that?

2 Likes