The worst kept secret in AFLW history was confirmed on Wednesday morning after the Adelaide Football Club announced that dual best and fairest winning champion Erin Phillips had officially cut ties with the Crows.
In a statement released prior to 8:30am AEST, the foundation member of the women's competition stated that the soon-to-be 37-year-old would no longer ply her trade in tri-colours and was instead set to "explore her options with an expansion club".
“As a footballer, Erin has been the best player of her generation but equally she is a great person,” Harper said.
“Her contribution to our Club, as well as women’s football here in South Australia and nationally, has been significant and she has helped create a legacy from which many young girls and women will benefit.
“We wish Erin, her wife Tracy and their family all the best for the future and thank them for helping make our Club a better place.”
Phillips herself wished to thank the club for the opportunities afforded to her to make her childhood dreams come true.
“I am forever grateful to the Adelaide Football Club and the members and supporters for the opportunity to represent this amazing club for the past six years,” Phillips said.
“I want to thank my team mates, the staff and in particular Matthew Clarke, Phil Harper and Vicki Daldy, for the support they have provided me and my family.
“The lifelong friendships I have made is why this decision has been incredibly difficult but I leave knowing they will forever remain a special part of me, and I wish them nothing but the best for the future.”
While Adelaide were unwilling to confirm which of the four expansion clubs - Essendon, Hawthorn, Sydney and Port Adelaide - the giant of the competition would be joining, the Power wasted no time in announcing it was they that had secured Phillips' signature for next season.
— Port Adelaide FC (@PAFC) April 26, 2022
Within their own announcement, Port Adelaide’s Head of AFLW Juliet Haslam spoke with palpable excitement about bringing Phillips back to the club her father, Greg, had won eight premierships with between 1977 and 1992.
“Erin is a brilliant player and more importantly a fantastic person,” Haslam said.
“I have spoken in the past of wanting to build a successful high performance women’s program with a strong culture, and Erin’s character, leadership and experience makes her an ideal first signing.
“She knows what it takes to be successful in elite sport and in particular in the AFLW having won just about every accolade from a team and personal perspective. She also understands what it means to represent Port Adelaide.
“We are excited to have her commit to be on board, and look forward to adding to our playing group in the coming weeks.”
Phillips also delineated that this final chapter of her storied career was one she was jumping out of her skin to write.
“It’s been an absolute privilege to have been a part of the most successful AFLW club to date,” Phillips said.
“I obviously have great memories and friendships from my time at Adelaide, which I will cherish forever.
“But as a kid growing up, all I wanted was to be like Dad and play football for the Port Adelaide Football Club. Port Adelaide feels like home to me. It’s where I spent a lot of my childhood.
“It was always my dream to be able to represent the club and add to its incredible history, and I am beyond thrilled to finally get that chance and play a role in building this team from the ground up.
“I am really excited by the plans for the Alberton precinct redevelopment and the opportunity to work with some incredible women including Lauren Arnell, Juliet Haslam, Rachael Sporn and Naomi Maidment to establish a successful female football program that will only grow in years to come.”
Phillips will depart Adelaide after lacing the boots on 46 occasions for the Crows across six seasons and slotting 50 goals.
With Phillips' pair of league best and fairests, duo of club champion honours and trifecta of premiership wins making her the most decorated in Adelaide's - if not the league's - history, it is not yet known how or when the Crows will honour the South Australian's legacy.
Given a date of commencement for the seventh season of the AFLW is yet to be announced, it is not yet known when Port and Phillips will face off against Adelaide in the inaugural women's Showdown.