Tegan Philip has the fondest memories of the last Commonwealth Games, when the Melbourne Vixens’ shooter experienced life in the athletes’ village, savoured the presence in Glasgow of her Anglesea-based parents, Kendra and Geoff, and was - most unforgettably - a member of the Diamonds’ team that nudged New Zealand off the gold medal dais for the first time since 2002.
Philip is not scheduled to be on the Gold Coast for the sequel, yet that is not to say that her presence has not been felt. The 29-year-old is one of four Training Partners whose job it has been to help ready Lisa Alexander’s 12-strong Australian squad for battle, while remaining ready, just in case, for a late call-up herself.
“The girls have done a really great job of including us, so we’re not necessarily feeling like Training Partners, which has been really nice,’’ said Philip, who returned from the final camp on the Sunshine Coast on Easter Sunday.
“I had a crack at it in 2014, and (I’m) now playing a bit of a different role, but I appreciated what the girls did for us back then, so trying to assist the girls where they need it at this one so they can go out and do their thing.’’
The last of Philip’s 12 Tests came in last year’s Quad Series; her recall after a three-year absence a deserved reward for the exceptional comeback that followed an untimely knee reconstruction on the eve of the ANZ Championship’s farewell season in 2016.
Sunshine Coast Lightning’s Steph Wood and the back-from-the-wilderness Swifts’ veteran Susan Pettit were the preferred goal attacks for this Commonwealth Games, leaving Philip and Firebird Gretel Tippett as the next in line. Their role: to help out, having missed out, while making the most of their time in the Diamonds’ environment to listen and learn.
“You always want to be there, and I was close, but that’s just how our sport goes,’’ says the easy-going Victorian. “Sometimes you’re in, and sometimes you’re not in, and I suppose I’ve just accepted that and I’ve had the experiences going both ways.
“So obviously excited for the girls that are in, and disappointed that I didn’t get the call-up, but know that they’ll go out and do a good job anyway, and I’ll just focus on what I get to do at Vixens.’’
That includes match practice over the same April weekend when the GC2018 medals are decided, with Lizzie Watson and Jo Weston flying the Vixens’ flag at what will be the first major tournament for both. Meanwhile, back at the Geelong home of Vixens’ Coach Simone McKinnis, their Suncorp Super Netball teammates will gather for a party that should double as a celebration. Fingers crossed.
On such a day, if it would be natural for Philip to experience some slightly mixed emotions, yet they are unlikely to be obvious to those around. McKinnis has been impressed by her co-Vice-Captain’s up-beat attitude to the selection let-down, the 2017 Goal Attack in the SSN Team of the Year having played some career-best netball during her post-injury return to the elite level.
“It’s challenging when you’re not part of a team, and you want to be, but it’s part and parcel of being at that level,’’ said McKinnis, a member of the gold medal-winning team on netball’s Commonwealth Games debut, in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.
“I’ve really admired Tegan’s attitude and how she’s been able to deal with the disappointment of not being named in the team. She just got on with things, and said ‘I’m just going to be ready and prepared whatever happens’. It was about being focused for our season, but being right and ready for the Diamonds and doing whatever’s needed for them. She’s just had a really good mindset.’’
Which is typical of Philip, the Grand Final MVP in the 2014 Premiership team and a player whose eight-year career has regularly mixed highs and lows. Although the Netball World Cup beckons tantalisingly in Liverpool in 2018, the athletic goaler’s beloved Vixens remain her priority.
“Obviously it’s a possibility, but for me my focus is always Vixens,’’ Philip says. “It’s just knowing that if I play well and perform well at the Vixens then that will give me a potential opportunity for Aussie representation. That's my mentality.’’
By Linda Pearce, multi-award-winning netball writer with over 30 years experience.