CAMBEWARRA’S James Phillips has just returned from Adelaide where he played a starring role for the New South Wales Blue Dogs, at the 15 Years and Under National Championships.
Prior to the tournament, held from July 21-28, the Bomaderry Tigers junior and his NSW side had just one training session in Canberra.
This was accompanied by a trial match against ACT, which helped Phillips prepare for the biggest tournament of his young career.
“Heading into nationals, my main goals were to enjoy the opportunity I was given and to play the best footy I could,” Phillips said.
After the team’s arrival in South Australia and opening ceremony on Saturday, they kicked off their campaign against ACT – a game where Phillips, 14, started at fullback and NSW won 85-12.
Their second game of the tournament pitted them against favourites Victoria, on a wet and windy day – the Blue Dogs losing 75-10.
After a rest day and excursion to Adelaide Oval on Tuesday, Phillips produced his best game of the week on Wednesday.
“Against Western Australia, I thought I played very strongly, especially considering how solid the opposition was,” he said.
“I felt my confidence rose during the match, which led to me playing with an aggressive and attacking style.”
Despite Phillips’ performance, his side went down 56-36, a game they built on against Northern Territory.
“The whole team played really well against Northern Territory, which showed on the scoreboard, as we won 158-14,” he said.
In the 144-point win, Phillips kicked one goal and one behind – seeing them qualify for the fifth and sixth playoff against Tasmania on the Saturday.
“Our final game was very close and we all finished a great week with a strong performance,” he said.
“But unfortunately, we went down by 11 points, to finish in sixth.”
Upon reflection of the tournament, which saw Victoria edge out South Australian in the final, the St John the Evangelist Catholic High School student was happy with his and his team’s performances.
“Although I felt like I could have done a few things better, I was really happy with how I played – as a playing group, we improved with each game,” he said.
“Playing this level was a great experience and has given me an insight into what Aussie Rules is like on the national level.
“It showed me what I need to work on and what it takes to play at that level.”
Phillips, who will this weekend play for the North side in the under 15s Giants Academy All Stars match in Canberra, now has more goals on his radar.
“My goal now is to make the under 16s Rams side, which is a combined NSW and ACT side,” he said.