Few would have been happier than Kevin Sheedy to see Andrew Phillips don the sash.
The Essendon legend and inaugural Greater Western Sydney coach, who signed Phillips as a Giants foundation player in 2010, had long floated the idea of the ruckman becoming a Bomber.
And yesterday, he finally got his wish when Phillips became the first player traded to Essendon from Carlton since Justin Murphy in 2003 – a year Sheedy helmed the Bombers.
“Ever since he was at GWS, ‘Sheeds’ kept telling me we’ve got to get this kid to the club,” Essendon general manager of list and recruiting Adrian Dodoro said on Wednesday.
“We’ve finally got him, so I hope Sheeds is happy with that.”
Sheeds-approved ruckman ☑️— Essendon FC (@essendonfc) October 16, 2019
Big-bodied mid ☑️
Playing list retained ☑️
AD wraps up the trade period that was. pic.twitter.com/s2B6uF1bHf
Phillips arrives at Essendon via a late swap of picks and with little fanfare, having played just 41 AFL games across nine seasons at GWS and Carlton.
The lack of notoriety won't bother the laid-back Tasmanian, though, who’s no stranger to flying under the radar.
Playing second fiddle to Shane Mumford (GWS) and then Matthew Kreuzer (Carlton), he’s had to fight for opportunities, with injuries also impacting his output.
But a closer look at his numbers suggests the 28-year-old could be poised to step into the limelight at his third AFL club.
From his five games in 2019, Phillips ranked inside the competition’s top 10 averages for centre clearances, hitouts and contested marks - Nic Naitanui the only other ruckman to better Phillips in the latter.
He set new career-high averages for disposals (11.4), hitouts (29.8), tackles (3.4), inside 50s (2.6), marks (3.6), clearances (3.2), metres gained (185.2) and intercepts (3.2), ranked by Champion Data as ‘elite’ for contested marks and hitouts to advantage.
An old-fashioned ruckman who can impact the scoreboard, he was among Carlton’s best in its win over Adelaide just a few months ago, replacing an injured Kreuzer to earn a vote from the coaches in the AFLCA Champion Player of the Year Award.
It was that performance in particular that spiked Dodoro’s interest in Phillips, who will bolster a Bombers ruck division that had its challenges this season.
“Andrew’s a beautiful ruck technician,” Dodoro said.
“When he did play senior football for Carlton this year, he actually got coaches votes in one of the games later in the year and showed he’s a very, very adequate AFL ruckman.
“We’re really happy to get him on board."
Should Phillips thrive at Essendon, Dodoro might just have Sheedy to thank for planting the seed all those years ago.
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