Building a young, competitive team from the ground up is all about trust. The players need to trust that the coaches are getting the most out of them, they need to trust in their teammates to get the job done, and almost most importantly, the coaches need to trust their young players to execute in big moments.
The game against West Coast in Round 17 was full of big moments, and after the Eagles kicked four goals to start the final term, the game was on a knife’s edge.
Usually North would look to the likes of Todd Goldstein, Ben Cunnington or Jack Ziebell to produce the big moments, but this time Noble was placing his trust in North’s young future stars.
Down 54-43, it was Tristan Xerri lining up in the ruck, with Tarryn Thomas, Jy Simpkin and Will Phillips attending the centre bounce, with Luke Davies-Uniacke forward and Curtis Taylor on the wing.
Xerri won the tap, but the Eagles won the clearance …. However, it was the midfield pressure from North’s young charges that allowed them to win the ball, resulting in a scoring opportunity.
Will Phillips finished the game with 8 contested possessions, 4 clearances and 4 score involvements, while running at 90 per cent disposal efficiency, and he says the trust Noble has in his young players is special.
“We talk about building belief in ourselves and that’s what we strive for,” Phillips told North Media.
“I remember that centre bounce actually, and I remember thinking how amazing it was that ‘Nobes’ and the coaching group were trusting such a young midfield group.
“That trust in us gives us confidence and it gives us an opportunity to build something together as a young group, and that we’re not shying around from playing the young boys in the big moments.
“It just shows what you can do even if you’re young and inexperienced. If each individual plays their role we can do anything really.”
That clash with the Eagles could prove to be an iconic game in North history, and those are the moments a player remembers not just for the rest of their career, but their life.
There’s arguably no greater joy in football than coming out on top in a tight and tough game, and the number 29 says both he and the whole team have used the victory as a launching point for future success.
“It was a pretty special moment. That was when we started to gain some momentum as a footy club and to be a part of that is really promising for the future,” he said.
“It gave me the confidence going into the next few weeks that I can take it up to that level, play some good footy at that level and play a crucial role in the team.
“I thought that day was a solid team win and a time where a lot of people stood up. Our structures started to come together … our backs were against the wall, we were underdogs over in the west and it was really special.
“Particularly as a young group, if we can believe in ourselves and what we’re building the future seems so bright.”
As the end of the home and away season approaches, Phillips can take a multitude of learnings from his 10 games at senior level so far, a total he is striving to add to across the remainder of 2021.
Individual and team goals are a huge part of building success, but it can be easy to get bogged down in statistics and metrics when looking at personal growth, especially for a first-year player.
Phillips says he’s currently taking his career one day at a time, targeting all-around, holistic improvement in his game.
“I try not to put numbers in my individual goals, I try to keep it pretty simple, get the best out of myself, learn as much as possible and try to take my game to the next level, even if I’m taking baby steps,” he said.
“It’s just about one step at a time and trying to stay as present as possible. If I can focus on that process and not try to think too far ahead or dwell on the past then I think that’ll hold me in good stead.
“Hopefully I can continue to show my strengths when I go in the midfield, and hopefully I can prove I can be one of the best midfielders in the competition one day.”