“The team was three-time Pacific Games champions and the last time they played against New Zealand they were heavily defeated,” he says.
“Also, the team had not been together for over three years.”
For anyone else that may seem like a daunting task to take on just three months out from the FIFA Women’s World Cup qualifier, but with an extensive background in coaching it’s a challenge Phillips is more than up to.
“I played almost 400 National League games in the Australian National League, the NSL is the equivalent to what is now known as the A League. I also played for Australian junior teams and in Asia,” he says of his extensive playing career.
“I won two NSL Championships and two NSL Cups with two different clubs during that time.”
After hanging up his boots, Phillips has kept himself in the world of football, taking on the role of coach for clubs and countries in both the Oceania and the Asian Football Confederations.
“As a coach I won the Australian NSL, coached Australian junior national teams, worked in elite youth academies with both boys and girls, coaching in the the Vietnam V-League, Malaysian Super League and Premier League and have worked for OFC, FFA and AFC in coach education.”
With time to get to know the players over the past couple of months, Phillips says there is plenty to get excited about.
“My first impression of the players was that there is some raw talent and consistent exposure at higher level they could produce better results for the national team, and perhaps football careers for a few individuals,” he enthuses.
“As I’ve gotten to know them I think they have all improved and have a better understanding of the team, group and individual task and actions.”
The objective for Phillips is clear – qualify for Canada 2015. But is it something he believes the squad can achieve?
Of course, anything is possible in football after all.
“My objectives as coach of this side is that every player plays to their potential and collectively we work together to maximise our chance to qualify for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Canada.
“The general objective for the upcoming competition is qualification to Canada 2015. The side is a good mix of youth and ‘experience’ who have been receptive to new ideas, and we are gaining confidence and belief in our system,” he says.
The obvious hurdle to qualification remains New Zealand’s Football Ferns, and Phillips isn’t ruling out Tonga or Cook Islands for an upset either.
“Any game at international level is difficult. We are ranked in the FIFA 100s, New Zealand is 19th,” he states.
“Cook Islands has recruited many New Zealand players so they will be difficult. I have worked in Tonga and know that the women are competitive and will be a dangerous game.
“Sadly the draw has not done us any favours with a tough first game against Cooks and one day recovery before we face New Zealand who have Tonga first game. They will play the weaker 11 against Tonga therefore having fresh legs against us. We will need to be at full strength to beat Cooks and that gives New Zealand a chance to see our first game but we will only see their second XI.
“We will need lots of things to go our way, and a very big and loud home support behind us.”