Ross Lyon once famously mused, “You can‘t head down to Hay St and buy confidence, can you? There’s no confidence shop.”
Clearly Lyon hadn’t met Mattaes Phillipou.
Bursting with confidence and competitiveness, the son of SANFL great Sam Phillipou looms as arguably the wildcard in this year’s draft.
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Foxfooty.com.au reported last month Phillipou – a big-bodied, versatile midfielder from Woodville West-Torrens – was being considered by Essendon for a selection at pick No.4, but that if he isn’t taken by the Bombers, he could slide out of the top 10 altogether.
Such a fluctuation shows how difficult it is to know what to expect for Phillipou, but the teenager looks determined to outperform all expectation.
“Individually, I think I‘ve exceeded a lot of the expectations of people. I think I’ve just proved the belief in myself that I have to do everyone else,” he told foxfooty.com.au.
“I think I’ve made the people around me proud and I’ve made myself proud.”
Teammates certainly walk taller with Phillipou by their side.
His surge up the predicted draft order came after a scintillating finish to his SANFL Under 18 stint, averaging 33 disposals in his final four games.
The South Australian’s confidence in his own ability is considerable.
Asked which player he’d take if he had Pick 1, he said: “I think I‘d have to say myself, just because I think if you’re not going to back yourself, you probably don’t have the confidence required to play in the league.”
While Phillipou’s swagger could easily be channelled towards creating highlights at the expense of defensive integrity, he has added more strings to his bow.
“Team-wise, it hasn’t been the best year, which is a bit new for me, growing up I was in teams that won pretty much all the time. It was a good challenge,” he said.
“I was forced to learn and develop some new skills … apply myself more defensively. If I wanted to stay in the game I had to be fully invested into the defensive side of the game.
“Off-field, I just felt I had to learn how to be a leader. Not just this year, but growing up I’ve gone through a lot of experiences that have developed me and I think I was ready for this year and I learned some things along the way.
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“During the pre-season I knew I wanted to get better at defensive stuff because I knew if I wanted to play in the AFL it would have to get to another level.”
The supreme self-belief Phillipou has also hasn’t overridden the surreal nature of testing at the draft combine in the bid to become an AFL player.
“Honestly it‘s so surreal. I remember getting here yesterday, I’m walking past rooms with every AFL club, you’ve got Google here, you’ve got a Telstra room. I was like, ‘What the hell is going on?’
“I remember for some of the testing that we had one of them was 3D head scanning for the new AFL Evolution game. I’m walking in with three of my mates and we just started squealing. The guys were like, ‘you’re the only ones who get this excited!’
“I remember growing up playing NBA 2K and you’re like, ‘Wow, imagine if I was in this’ and now I could have the chance to be in an actual video game?
“That was really surreal as well.”
Phillipou’s combine results showed the versatility he has, finishing fifth in the running vertical jump while also placing ninth in the 2km time trial.
He’ll be the first South Australian picked up on draft night and whichever club gets him won’t have to try and coax effort or discussion out of him.
“I just feel like there‘s something to prove,” he said.
“I always feel like there has been for me and I think the combine is the last thing I can do to really put my name forward. I think regardless of times or things like that, if I really, really give it my best I think that’ll impress recruiters.”
Wherever he gets picked up, Phillipou has most certainly made an impression.