Mattaes Phillipou’s directive when coming out of the senior line-up for the first time in lieu of a stint in the VFL was simple: hone your midfield craft and don’t be afraid to take the game apart.

Sunday’s exhibition over Sydney was the perfect demonstration of that, piecing together his best game in St Kilda colours with 26 disposals, 10 score involvements, five clearances and a goal which kick-started his side’s four-goal charge to the finish line and whip the 30,000-strong Marvel Stadium crowd into a frenzy.

But producing such a performance — which yielded a perfect 10 coaches’ votes — hasn’t come overnight. Phillipou had to reignite on multiple fronts to put himself back into the selection frame, spending extensive time with the club’s development coaches in Lenny Hayes, Jake Batchelor and Damian Carroll to declare himself to go again at the highest level.


“First and foremost, I felt like I realigned with what got me here. The boys down in the VFL are incredible. I couldn’t say a bad thing about them, the culture is incredible,” Phillipou told post-game.

“Jake Batchelor, Lenny Hayes and Damian Carroll have been absolutely massive for me, but all the boys believe in me and that means a lot, it does.

“Especially when you’re going through what a lot would consider to be a tough time, it means a lot to have the support of your teammates and your coaches. 

I said to Lenny I have no doubt I wouldn’t have been in this quick if it wasn’t for his support and guidance, and Batch just filled me with confidence. It means a lot.

- Mattaes Phillipou

Following his stretch in the VFL finessing his midfield craft, Phillipou proved an integral cog in the Saints’ full-pressure machine which stunned the Swans on Sunday afternoon.

Heading into half-time however, the Saints were close to being at the mercy of the rampaging Swans brigade, who rammed home six goals in the second term to threaten the hopes of a sixth straight win.

“To be honest, it was just a result of our effort and our mental resilience and focus. We could have put the cue in the rack when they got on top of us late in the second when it felt like we were playing pretty strong and right there with them,” Phillipou said.

“To be able to claw back the way we did, you don’t do that by focusing on the scoreboard. It would have been pretty deflating if we did.

“At half-time we were giving each other feedback, and it was strong feedback and pointed feedback. We could have taken it and sooked about it, but we didn’t. Credit to our leaders, Jack Steele and Callum Wilkie, those were the two that were giving the feedback and our group really responded, as did those guys. 

“I’m just grateful to be a part of it and contribute in any way I can.”


There’s still much to learn for Phillipou, a whole lot of development and refinement ahead and as Ross Lyon flagged post-game, potentially not the end of the journey when it comes to spells in the reserves to improve his own game.

But the joy from a win runs deep. The hunger to succeed and happiness from that is burning stronger than ever in Phillipou’s eyes, and Sunday’s game will hopefully serve as the leaping-off point for him to begin to unlock his full potential as a Saint.

“It’s just that winning feeling… it’s funny, it doesn’t really change. Whether it’s a handball game during week — we had one the other day and we won — I just remember thinking ‘I love that feeling’,” Phillipou said.

“To get it on this stage against the top team makes it even more special.”