Sam Philp’s omission from the 2019 Vic Metro squad only drove him to new heights at NAB League level for the Northern Knights this year.
The 18-year-old midfielder has emerged as a ‘bolter’ for the 2019 NAB AFL Draft on November 27-28 since missing the final cut for Metro, a team that was stacked with on-ball talent for June and July’s NAB AFL Under-18 Championships.
185cm Philp boasts strong ball-winning ability inside the contest and an explosive burst of speed to leave congestion but likely didn’t have the same weight of form behind him as others when it came to finalising Metro’s squad.
However, the St Mary’s (Yarra Junior FL) product used his disappointment to fuel a run of performances that resulted in an invite to the recent NAB AFL Draft Combine.
He also took home Northern’s best-and-fairest award and won NAB League Boys Team of the Year selection after averaging 19 disposals and four tackles per game as well as kicking nine goals across 16 matches for the Knights this season.
* Visit the ‘Highlights’ section of the NAB League app to watch Sam Philp’s 2019 season highlights.
“It was a minor setback to miss the Metro squad, but I just tried to keep playing well at the Knights and I was lucky enough to get the call-up here,” Philp said at the AFL Draft Combine, where he recorded the quickest time of all participants in the 20m sprint.
“I’d played against some of the guys getting Vic Metro call-ups and felt like I was competitive with them. I felt I was pretty likely to make the squad, so I was a little bit disappointed to miss out, but it’s understandable with Metro having a solid midfield crop.
“I was pretty down for a couple of days, but I quickly turned that around. I used it as a bit of fire in the belly to go out and prove to myself that I was worthy of a spot.
“I’m pretty self-driven and I think I proved that I was capable.”
As the Under-18 Championships played out, Philp turned his attention to “really nailing down” his strengths both on and off the field.
He added a more damaging side to his game outside the contest and led the way in the middle for promising Northern bottom-agers like Tom McMahon and Josh Watson.
“I think that stretch was probably some of my best form for the season,” Philp said. “With a few of the Metro boys out, I took on some responsibility as one of the senior guys in the group and probably one of the senior midfielders in the competition. I felt like it was a really good chance for me to showcase a bit.
“I worked on my cleanliness around contests and my burst of speed, and I felt like my outside game needed a bit of improving. I was probably a heavily contested player last year, so I focused on balancing that out and being more damaging on the outside.
“When the ball was in dispute out in the open, I felt like my footy IQ was a lot better than last year. I was able to get into better spots and use my foot skills a bit more.
“Even when the Metro boys came back into the team, I felt like I was able to carry my form and stay pretty consistent throughout the year, which was one of my main aims coming into the season.”
NAB LEAGUE ‘FAST FIVE’ QUESTIONS
Most influential person on your football at Northern:
“It would have to be James Ray, the midfield coach. He took over that role halfway through last year and I’ve worked really closely with him from that time.”
Most valuable lesson learned in the NAB League:
“Just to not take anything for granted. (Head coach) Justin Wenke’s famous quote at the club is: ‘You’re only a passer-by, so leave a bit of a legacy.’ That stuck with me as a top-age player. I really wanted to leave a legacy for the bottom-agers and drive the standards at the club.”
Teammate you’ve most enjoyed sharing the NAB League journey with:
“Ryan Sturgess. I go to the same school as Ryan and we’ve gone through the journey together. It’s been nice to share that with him.”
Most difficult NAB League opponent:
“Probably Tom Green (GWS Giants Academy). I wasn’t really aware of Tom at the time, but I soon realised how good he was. He’s a big boy. I was on him for a few stoppages and quickly had to adapt my game.”
Most memorable NAB League moment:
“One that sticks out is the Wildcard Round win against the Bendigo Pioneers this year. We went in pretty nervous because they’d beaten us just a few weeks before, but to come out as pretty comfortable winners (by 42 points) was a really good feeling and there was a great vibe amongst the group after the game.”
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