Phil started playing rugby in Memphis in 1971 by way of the University of Florida where he attended graduate school there and started the University of Florida Rugby Club. Phil came to Memphis to take a job at the University of Tennessee Medical School. His had aquired several years experience playing rugby in Australia prior to coming to the U.S. to attend college. Having someone with rugby experience at a high level show up to play the sport in the first few years was a critical element to the continued success of the Memphis Wanderers at the time and the sport in general in Memphis. Phil had a personality that matched his skills which added to the overall enjoyment he brought to the sport.
Phil’s experience and knowledge of the game made him a natural to be the captain and coach of the Memphis Wanderers RFC. He also helped guide and direct the Club as the coach an captain and elevated the skill level of the players and team and made them competitive with most of the clubs that they played at the time. He was also a major factor in transitioning the Memphis Wanderers to the Memphis Bulls and the Club’s relationship with the Schlitz brewery, and then to the Old No. 7 and the club’s sponsorship with Jack Daniel’s Distillery. His knowledge and personality were instrumental in the discussions with the various corporate sponsors of the Club to convince them to provide the necessary monies for the team. It seemed like that Australian accent had some unusual sway over the executives during the discussions.
Phil was also player, administrator, selector and coach over his time with the Club and was also active in the then Mid-South Rugby Union also as a select side player, captain and coach. Whenever Phil played the game, his skill, enthusiasm, and leadership were always out front. You would experience Phil’s leadership from before the start of the game until the end of the social events that often lasted late into the evening.
Phil moved from Memphis after a career at the University of Tennessee in Memphis and worked in St. Louis for a number of years and played, coached and captained the St. Louis Ramblers. He eventually moved back home to Australia and retired about 10 years ago. He made periodic visits back to Memphis every 2-3 years so we were fortunate to still spend time with him as he blew through town on his way to another US city to visit old friends.
Unfortunately Phil passed away February 2014 after a full life. Phil like Ken is another person that we will miss.
(Written by Steve Williams and presented at the 2014 Hall of Fame Dinner. )