North Melbourne’s top draft pick of the 2020 NAB AFL Draft, Will Phillips has been entrusted with continuing the legacy of the club’s number 29 jumper, most recently worn by AFL games-record-holder, Brent Harvey.
An exciting inside-midfield prospect, Phillips was a member of the Oakleigh Chargers’ 2019 premiership campaign as a bottom-age player, mostly playing on the wing.
An inside midfielder by nature, he also averaged 22 disposals and 4 tackles across the successful Chargers campaign, and established himself as one of the top midfielders of his draft class despite missing his top-age year due to the Covid season cancellation.
North Melbourne debut: Round 3, 2021
2021: While immediate pressure is often placed on those taken at the top end of the draft, Phillips found it difficult to break into North’s premier midfield, often finding himself forward to accommodate the likes of Ben Cunnington and Jy Simpkin in the middle of the park.
As a natural midfielder, the versatility Phillips has added into his game by learning to play forward will be invaluable as he continues his career, and some exceptional performances playing inside midfield in the VFL point to his mountains of potential.
Playing 14 AFL games in his first season of senior football, Phillips’ natural eye for goal shone through when given the chance, with his jumper pulling celebration after his first career goal – a slick banana following a clean pick-up in traffic – threatening to become an iconic moment of the season.
While he showed flashes of his x-factor during the season, a consistent aspect of his game all year was his elite kicking, often threading the needle through the middle of the ground to find teammates in positive positions.
With 33 disposals and 8 tackles in the Round 6 VFL victory over Essendon, and 31 disposals and 7 tackles in the Round 10 victory over Coburg, Phillips has already established himself as a prodigious talent at VFL level, but now needs to consistently show similar levels of performance in senior football.
After a promising 2021 season, Phillips’ aim for 2022 will be to lock himself into North’s best 22 each week. With another pre-season under his belt after a full season of football, that certainly isn’t beyond the realms of possibility.