Long haul back tough for Phillips

WHILE he didn't hit rock bottom in 2013, things were certainly tough for Lauderdale ruckman Andrew Phillips after his body repeatedly halted his promising AFL career with Greater Western Sydney.

After playing nine games in his debut season of 2012, including being part of the Giants' maiden win in his debut game, he disappeared from the football landscape due to continuous issues with his right hamstring, which eventually required surgery.

``I did it fairly decently twice and then there was another minor little strain, but it wasn't really the fact I kept on doing it, it is just it wouldn't heal,'' the 22-year-old told  The Examiner .

``Up until I did it I'd never really had any hamstring problems before and it just happened out of the blue, I'd just done a really good job of it.

``I tore the actual muscle and split the tendon, which was the issue, and I had a bit of scar tissue latch on to the nerve and once the nerve got involved it became pretty complicated.

``I don't think there's too many cases like my hamstring about, so it was a bit of an unknown what to do, so I had to seek a fair bit of advice on it.

``We put off surgery as long as possible, but near the end of the season we ended up having to go in and they cut away a bit of the scar tissue that had latched itself on my nerve and after a couple of weeks it started to come good.

``There is still some issues with it, but with the strength and flexibility of it, I got the all-clear to return.''

Phillips, a rookie draft selection in 2010, admitted his time in the rehab group was a ``lonely and frustrating' experience.

``Because you are here to play footy and not being able to do anything about the fact you can't play really does play on your mind and get to you.

``It is a tough time. You can understand why you get flat and it can be hard to find motivation.

``The long-term rehab guys are encouraged to talk to the psychologist here, which I did, and I found that really helped.''

While he was down, Phillips never got close to being out, and his persistence paid off when he returned in the Giants' round 9 loss to West Coast in Perth, which involved a first-up hit-out against Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.

He had seven possessions, took two marks, won six hitouts and kicked 1.0.

'`All the nerves came back like it was my first game again, I knew I would get butterflies, but I didn't think I would go back to feeling like I did when I was first in the system,'' he said.

``I had  a fair idea what was going to be served up. 

``I'd had a couple of games in the NEAFL and I was starting to run those games out and could feel my match fitness coming back, but I had to keep telling myself that I can't compare my fitness to the standard of how it needs to be in the seniors, and that's the way it turned out to be.

``I don't think there was too much expected from my first game back, but at the same time, I wasn't just there to fill a position on the team sheet, I was there to do a job. 

``I was fairly happy with a few things I did, but match fitness and intensity, as well as Cox and Naitanui, got the better of me.''

Phillips, who says he is modelling his game on teammate Shane Mumford, is not putting any expectations on himself for the remainder of the year apart from hoping to stay away from the injury list.

 Lauderdale product Andrew Phillips.

Lauderdale product Andrew Phillips.

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