From Ultimate Frisbee to football, Cat Phillips’ pathway to playing in the NAB AFL Women’s Competition has been nothing short of remarkable. The 26-year-old was just one of a number of female athletes who jumped on the code-switching journey with exceptional success.
As a six-time Australian Ultimate Frisbee representative Phillips’ pace and endurance was perfectly suited to a career in football. The midfielder regularly impressed at AFLW level as she found a penchant for getting fans on their feet kicking quick-running goals.
I caught up with the Melbourne Football Club product in 2017 to learn more about how she found footy, her life outside of the game, training habits and aspirations for this year and beyond.
What was it like to be part of the first ever AFL Women’s season?
The entire AFLW was an incredible experience for me. The support I received from my friends, family, colleagues, people I didn’t even know, was just unbelievable and something that I’ll never forget. I made a big effort all the way through the season to take in everything, make the most of all the amazing opportunities, and really appreciate how lucky I was to be involved.
Name one thing you most enjoyed about playing AFL Women’s footy in 2017.
I absolutely loved training. Every session was really challenging, but also so rewarding because of how quickly I could see myself improving. The atmosphere around the club was something really special, with everyone fully committed to working hard and always putting the team first. I love training hard and learning the intricacies of the game, and Melbourne cultivated an environment where this was really easy to do.
What did you find most challenging?
Balancing work, family, friends and footy was hard. I always try to commit fully to everything I’m doing, and I found I probably spread myself a bit thin during the season. I was up early to train every morning, at work all day, training or working through my lunch break, then off to footy in the evening. I’d finish the day completely wrecked, eat dinner, sleep, then repeat. It didn’t really leave a lot of time for friends and family, although I was really lucky in this regard that everyone understood how much I had on and was nothing but supportive.
How did you find making the transition from Ultimate Frisbee to football?
It was actually a relatively smooth transition for me. Although there are some key differences between the sports, the running patterns, fitness, coordination and defensive awareness are all very similar. This meant that although I had heaps to learn in some areas and felt very out of my depth at times, there were also aspects of the game that I had a head start on, or was able to pick up really quickly because of my frisbee background.
Do you think players who come from different sports hold an advantage or disadvantage to playing AFL Women’s?
I think a bit of both. New players obviously lack the years of skill development that experienced footy players have had, but there are definitely advantages too. We don’t really have any bad habits, which can make it easier to learn new concepts and stick to the game plan. We also have the potential to have quite different field awareness, which can be a real asset in terms of reading the play and creating space on the field.
What will the AFLW off season involve for you? Are you playing footy elsewhere?
It’s not really an off-season at all! I’m back into frisbee again, training with the Australian team in preparation for The World Games in July. I’m also playing with Melbourne University in the VFL, and getting my body as prepared as possible for the next AFLW pre-season.
What do you do outside of footy?
I work as a mechanical engineer at an Engineering Consulting firm called Arup. I’m in the Energy and Resources team, which is a great growth area and something I’m really passionate about. Apart from footy and frisbee, I also do a fair bit of bushwalking and Rogaining – a 24 hour bush navigation sport.
How does your training schedule differ from what it is now, compared to during the AFLW season?
I like to keep in a routine and keep training all year round – I find this easier than stopping and starting, so my schedule now is pretty similar to what we did during the season. I’m doing a bit more strength and endurance work, building foundations for next season, but in terms of number of sessions per week, it’s pretty much the same. I’ve also changed it up a bit to focus on what I need for Frisbee, which is more acceleration, power and change of direction.
Describe a normal week of workouts and how you incorporate training at Fernwood fitness.
I like to fit in most of my sessions before work – I feel fresh in the mornings, and I love the feeling of going to work after a really hard training. I do four running sets per week (two sprints and two intervals), and then between four and five gym sessions. These are separated into upper body and lower body so that I can give my legs some complete rest days, which I try to spread out over the week. On top of this I have VFL training twice a week, and footy and frisbee skills sessions.
Generally I’ll do a running set in the morning before work, followed by skills. That evening I’ll do lower body at the gym, then the next day I’ll do upper body, some light leg work (cycle, jog, recovery) and more skills.
What goals do you have for the next AFLW season?
I am doing everything I can to maximise my off season time so that I am as prepared as I can be going into next season. Now that I know what to expect, I want to make the most of every opportunity and really take ownership of my footy.