Awaiting a call scheduled for 10.55am on Tuesday, Tegan Philip was trying to keep a) her mind occupied with some study and b) her eyes off the clock. Results, it must be said, were mixed.
Yet, when it came, Diamonds' coach Lisa Alexander's timing was as punctual as the message was exactly what Philip wanted to hear: yes, after 12 Tests in five years, including her most recent minutes for the Diamonds back in 2017, she had been recalled.
Along with World Cup trio Caitlin Thwaites, Lizzy Watson and Jo Weston, Philip is one of four Melbourne Vixens - a Super Netball best - selected in an expanded Diamonds’ team of 13 for next month’s Constellation Cup series against New Zealand. Kate Moloney and Emily Mannix were chosen in the broader 2018/19 squad of 18.
“I was probably a little bit shocked to actually hear it and a little bit relieved as well, and obviously excited, so there was lots of different emotions happening all at once,’’ said Philip, before adding, with a laugh, “and trying to be cool on the phone’’.
Did she succeed?
“I think so. But I think they could tell that I was pretty pleased.’’
Little wonder. With recent regular Steph Wood opting out to “rest and recuperate”, 31-year-old Philip was elevated from the training partner role she has filled at several major championships, including last year on the Gold Coast and in Liverpool in July.
“It’s always tough when you’re getting that call, and the last while it’s been a ‘no’, so that’s definitely hard to hear,’’ she said.
“I suppose I just kept focusing on what I was doing at Vixens and just kept making myself available for selection. My attitude was just ‘it would be awesome if I was selected, but if not, that’s their decision. If they want me, they want me, and if they don’t, they don’t.’’
After a dream gold medal debut at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Philip’s road with the Diamonds has indeed been a rocky one in the years since. She was dropped for 2015, missed 2016 with a torn ACL, has been overlooked multiple times, in, out again, and regularly on the cusp.
This means a lot.
“I’m just proud to be back, and it’s special, I suppose, with the journey that I’ve had and the ins and outs that I’ve had that I’ve still been able to perform and still have given myself an opportunity to go again and be given another crack,’’ she said.
“It certainly hasn’t all been smooth sailing, and once you’re in, the toughest thing is keeping that position, and I obviously haven’t been able to do that, but it’s pleasing to be given another opportunity.’’
The Lightning’s Laura Scherian and Swift Maddy Turner are the uncapped members of the Diamonds’ 13, with Magpie Ash Brazill recalled, and April Brandley (pregnancy), Kelsey Browne (knee), Wood and Kim Ravaillion all unavailable.
In 2019, Philip started in all 16 games - including both finals - for the third-placed Vixens, and finished her 10th season as the club’s goals and games record-holder. She is still fit and fast and loving the game, while believing there is still better to come.
As for how she rated her 2019 SSN season: “Not too badly. I played some really good games and there’s still some games I need to probably improve on or lift a little bit, but obviously this selection is a reflection of my season and the selectors obviously liked what they saw, so it’s really nice to get that recognition.’’
Philip was last in the Diamonds’ 12 as a replacement for Wood in the Quad Series finale in Melbourne last October, but spent the afternoon on the bench. Hence the need to rewind to 2017 against the Ferns for her last active minutes in the gold dress.
“Two years sounds a long time now when you say it out loud. God!’’ she admits. “I’m really excited, and I’m hoping that I train really well and I’m given an opportunity to actually go back and run around on court again.’’
Potentially alongside Watson and Thwaites, fellow Vixens’ starters in the attacking third, and Weston - all of whom were first-hand witnesses to the World Cup final disappointment that was a one-goal triumph for the resurgent Silver Ferns.
“(I) definitely watched it, and never like it when Australia lose,’’ says Philip. “So at Constellation Cup we want to go out and show them our best performances, and show them we’re certainly the team to beat.’’
Constellation Cup fixtures (Australian tickets through Ticketek):
• Christchurch – Sunday 13 October
• Auckland – Wednesday 16 October
• Sydney – Sunday 20 October
• Perth – Sunday 27 October
Written by Linda Pearce