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More silverware for Erin, but AFLW expansion could cruel fellow code-hoppers

Football

Australian basketball has welcomed back newly-minted Crows club champion Erin Phillips, confident the Opal’s AFLW success won’t prompt a talent drain to the football code as the league considers expansion.

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Phillips, who will soon return to basketball in the WNBA, last night capped off a stunning week by winning the Crows Women’s Club Champion at SKYCITY in Darwin – just 24 hours after claiming All Australian selection, Goal of the Year and the inaugural AFL Women’s Best and Fairest at the W Awards in Melbourne.

That followed her earning the AFL Women’s Players’ Most Valuable Player gong on Monday and being dubbed best on ground in the Crows’ Grand Final win on Saturday.

Phillips snared 108 votes at last night’s count, winning the award ahead of her co-captain Chelsea Randall (100 votes) and Rising Star Ebony Marinoff (92 votes).

But outgoing Opals coach Brendan Joyce, unsurprised by Phillips’ feats in football, sees a future for the Adelaide Crows midfielder in the national basketball team, including a third Olympics in Tokyo 2020.

“As far the Opals are concerned, I have no doubt she can play on,” Joyce said.

“She’s a total professional and physically takes care of herself and she’s got the skills package. She’s got runs on the board.”

The 31-year-old switching between sports is no concern for Joyce or Basketball Australia (BA), which welcomes additional choice for female athletes.

Even if other basketballers decide to follow her path, BA encourages players attempting both sports – so long as the AFLW’s eight-week season can fit in between top-tier basketball schedules in the US and Europe.

Plans by the AFL to extend the women’s competition, however, through more home-and-away rounds and a finals series could throw a spanner into the works.

“They played a seven-week season. Did it impact Erin going to the WNBA? No,” said BA national teams manager Jan Stirling.

“So I don’t really see too many concerns with it at all. Any elite athlete, if they want to go onto the world stage, there’s a certain period where they have to define which is the sport of their choice.

“But at the moment, she’s been able to accommodate both and I just think that’s sensational for her and great for both codes.

“If we’re talking 10 years down the track and an AFL women’s season goes for five months, then there may be some decisions to be made then. But it’s all hypothetical.”

The domestic WNBL’s lack of exposure, failing to get a broadcast deal while the AFLW found an audience through television coverage, could be another issue for basketball.

But Stirling said basketball holds a trump card over the AFL.

“Players who want to go to an Olympic Games or a world championships or play in another country and experience that, the AFL’s not going to have that for them,” she said.

Basketball talent has long been of interest to AFL recruiters, but Joyce believes the two sports can thrive with the women’s talent pool available.

“The way the AFLW is set up, it looks like the girls will be able to play both. That’s unique,” Joyce said.

“At the end of the day, the kids have got to do what they love.

“I know Erin is over the moon about this. Women haven’t been able to play AFL footy so it’s fantastic to have choice.”

-AAP

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