News of a record that, until recently, former Melbourne Vixens’ great Bianca Chatfield was unaware she owned was left to current captain Kate Moloney to discover and share.
Earlier this year, Moloney told her long-time teammate Tegan Philip that she was just 10 games short of overtaking Chatfield as the club’s most capped player. Thus, Sunday’s home game against the Adelaide Thunderbirds marks not just the reawakening of Suncorp Super Netball after its month-long slumber, but the popular Philip’s latest milestone day.
“So I’ve been informed! I didn’t even realise that was coming up this year, but Kate Moloney was all over it,’’ says Philip, whose soon-to-be-112-game career spans both the former Trans-Tasman Championship and SSN.
“It’s pretty cool. Not something that I had planned on, or aimed to achieve, but it’s just kind of something that’s popped up along the way.
“I’m proud to say that I have only played at one club, for the Vixens, and obviously played the number of games that I have. And it’s nice to be taking over from Bianca, who was an amazing player and a great leader and person as well.’’
While Moloney doubts that Chatfield’s total club-games record of 244 games that also spans her Melbourne Phoenix years will ever be surpassed, she is thrilled for her friend Philip, who is the last player remaining from Moloney’s debut year, 2013.
“She’s been absolutely huge for the Vixens,’’ says Moloney. “‘Teegs epitomises what our values are about. The thing that sticks out for me and what makes her such a great leader is just her care for the players around her.
“And she’s probably one of the most athletic people I’ve ever played with. She’s extremely fit, extremely strong and she’s a great team player who was MVP of our 2014 premiership team and has been a massive contributor to our club.’’
One who was never really close to going elsewhere, either, despite considering a few rival offers some years back. Philip is happy to still be the “chilled, go-with-the-flow kind of person”, she has always been; the cruisy girl from Anglesea who runs the match-day warm-up, greets teammates with a friendly “oi”, and is happy with the long commute if it means being able to live close to family and friends in Geelong.
Hers was not the typical pathway to the elite level. The former Tegan Caldwell’s first state team was at 21/U level in 2009. By 2010 she was a Vixen, and in 2011 Sharelle McMahon ruptured her Achilles. “Then that was it. I was on after that.’’
So, for the 2014 premiership player, how does this Vixens’ team rate?
“(It’s) a 10, right?’’ she laughs. “I’m loving it. Previously I have been the oldest in the team and now it’s nice to have some fellow, um ‘mature’ players!
“Everyone genuinely cares for each other and gets along with each other and enjoys hanging out with each other, and it’s something pretty special… Having Caity Thwaites come back, having Renae Ingles back in the team, it’s awesome.’’
The highlight: obvious.
“2014 - absolutely loved it. Still remember being 10 goals up or something like that in the grand final, and that final quarter and (Cath) Coxy coming on and her crying in the last few minutes when she realised she’d won a premiership and she was also about to retire.
“The final siren, and runnin’ and jumpin’ on everyone, and celebrating and, ah, so much stuff going on! It’s an experience that some people get to have and other people don’t, and one that I will certainly cherish.’’
The lowlight: the ACL injury in 2016.
“It was definitely hard. I was shattered when I text(ed) the doctor after the scan and he rang back five minutes later saying ‘yeah, you’ve done it’. The main thing was just accepting that and being OK with it.
“It didn’t mean it wasn’t going to be hard, and I wasn’t going to be disappointed or sad at times, but that’s where I was at and that’s what was happening in my life. Watching the first round when the girls played, that was really hard. Going to the first home game, that was really hard.
“But I guess I just tried to make the most of what I was experiencing at that time.’’
At this time, there are no thoughts of retirement, even if each year brings a little greater appreciation of the off-season. Then again, once training resumes, the dynamic shooter is willing and ready. And fit. Always fit. And still truly elite.
“I’m still loving playing,’’ she says. “And there’s no time frame. I plan to keep playing until maybe the body just goes ‘I’m done. We’ve had enough’.’’
With speed and agility as two of Philip’s great strengths, neither appear to have diminished. "I think I could be playing some of the best netball that I’ve ever played. So I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve lost anything, as yet, in terms of my ability.’’
No doubts, either, over the 30-year-old’s commitment to the Vixens - one previous example being when existing contracts were shredded pre-SSN in 2017. “Tegan was one of the first people to put her hand up and say that she was staying and I respect that so much,’’ says Moloney. “I think it’s a really special trait.
“The other thing that stands out for me is the way she went about her rehab. Of all the players I’ve seen go through ACL rehab, I’ve never seen anyone do it as well as she did. She’s just ultra-professional in that sense as well, she’ll go above and beyond to make sure she’s ready to go.’’
The records are now flowing for a senior member of this still-young club. All-time leading scorer, soon-to-be most-capped, and still going strong.
“It says a lot about Tegan and what she’s given to this group that she’s now played as many games as Bianca,’’ says Moloney. “She’s had a huge impact on our club.’’
Written by Linda Pearce