Leagues: SANFL Under 18s, SANFL Reserves, AFL U18 Championships
SNAPSHOT: “A well-rounded forward/midfielder in the mould of Nat Fyfe and Patrick Dangerfield, Mattaes Phillipou’s aerial ability and scoreboard impact make him South Australia’s highest rated draft prospect.”
Mattaes Phillipou is regarded by most draft watchers as the best draft-eligible talent from South Australia. Boasting a 192cm frame and a handful of match-winning tools, part of the drawcard with Phillipou is his projected upside.
However the Woodville-West Torrens prospect has pieced together a strong junior career which has included representing South Australia at the National Championships and winning a SANFL U18 Premiership with the Eagles in 2021. Having announced himself to recruiters last season when he booted 25 goals and averaged 23.3 disposals as a bottom-ager, Phillipou has taken his game to the next level this year, pushing his name into top ten consideration in the process.
Proving far too good for the U18 competition, Mattaes managed to play three reserves games, with his three goal and 13 disposal effort against Sturt in round 17 particularly noteworthy. Among SA’s best performers at the mid-season carnival, Phillipou’s season was cut short when he sustained an ankle injury in August.
+ Aerial ability
+ Overhead marking
+ Clean hands
+ Scoreboard impact
- Field kicking
Football runs in the family for Phillipou, whose father Sam played over 100 games for Woodville-West Torrens and grandfather Peter also notched up 272 for the Eagles. Hailing from the PHOS Camden Football Club and Henley High School, Phillipou has divided his time between the forward-line and midfield throughout his junior years.
A gifted basketballer, Phillipou's natural athleticism has clearly carried over from the round ball to the Sherrin. He boasts a terrific leap and has some of the cleanest hands in the business both above his shoulders and at ground level. Phillipou announced himself as a forward last season, with his marking capacity making him a particularly difficult matchup in a very strong Eagles Under 18s set-up.
Recruiters would have been well aware of the upside of Phillipou, but when the then 16-year-old accumulated 32 possessions, six marks (three contested) and five goals against the Bulldogs last season, he went from likely draftee to possible early selection. And if that performance wasn't enough, his six goals and 32 disposals in a 122-point demolition of the Double Blues would've sealed it.
This season, Phillipou has spent more time in the midfield, where clubs will no doubt see a future for him long-term as a big-bodied on-baller. He played eight Under 18 games, finding the ball at-will and pushing forward to impact the scoreboard, averaging 28 disposals, 6.6 marks, 5.1 tackles, 4.3 clearances and 1.5 goals per game. He made the step-up to reserves level with relative ease and managed to find the goals against the seasoned bodies. A confident player, his ability to find the goals from just about anywhere is noticeable. Phillipou was terrific for SA in their first couple of National Championships games against the Allies and Victoria Country, but played through soreness in the latter games.
Phillipou's athleticism, forward craft and cleanliness overhead will likely see him begin his AFL career as a marking half-forward, however clubs are sure to have bigger plans for the South Australian. When used in the middle over the past couple of years, Phillipou has impressed with his one-touch pick-ups and clearance work at stoppages. Although he isn't particularly speedy, Phillipou boasts a powerful first couple of steps which allows him to break through would-be tacklers and is a penetrating user on his left-foot. Further adding to his upside, Mattaes is just five days off being ineligible for the 2022 draft, having been born late in December.
Phillipou's ball use is certainly serviceable, especially for a midfielder playing his role, however his field kicking remains an area to work on. Clubs are unlikely to view this as a total negative though, because the nature of his inside midfield role does not tend to lend itself to precise kicking.
DRAFT RANGE: 5-15
Mattaes Phillipou is an exciting prospect who will be high on the radar of clubs seeking a big-bodied midfielder or third-tall marking option in attack. Although many expect him to follow the lead of Nat Fyfe or Patrick Dangerfield in starting as a forward and transitioning into the middle, do not discount Phillipou’s damage forward-of-centre. Phillipou has put together a strong body of work with the Eagles and was a standout for SA before soreness struck. Viewed as a high upside selection, the combination of vice-like hands, a well-rounded athletic profile and high upside make Phillipou a first round certainty.
AFL U18 Championships
SANFL Under 18s