Kicking it old school with Phil Dennis
For 24 hours, Phil Dennis was going to be an NRL player.
In 2010 and carving his legendary status into the woodwork at Davies Park, the then Canberra feeder team Souths Logan got a call saying that the Raiders were having injury dramas and needed some back-up.
“I was nearly on the plane and then I got the call saying there was a player back from injury and that was it,” Dennis recalls ahead of the Magpies' big clash with Burleigh at Davies Park on Sunday.
“I was going to go down for a month and train with the squad and be like a fly-in player back to Souths if I wasn't playing and could have had the opportunity to get a run.
“You're up and you're excited and then bang, we don't need you.”
In many ways Dennis’s legacy will live longer because of the fact the he didn’t ever get that shot in the NRL.
Now in his 14th season in the Intrust Super Cup and within sight of 200 games for Souths Logan, Dennis is the type of old-school footballer the competition was built upon.
Footy doesn't define entirely who Phil Dennis is, but it has been an enormous part of his life since playing juniors with Burdekin in North Queensland all those years ago.
He made his debut in Queensland's premier competition with Wests as a 19-year-old in 2003 and will captain the Magpies against Burleigh from the bench on Sunday as the most capped player in the club’s history.
In a team that has been bolstered by the inclusion of young Broncos such as Joe Boyce, Herman Ese'ese, Caleb Timu and Marion Seve, Souths Logan coach Josh Hannay said the influence of a player such as Dennis was invaluable for Intrust Super Cup clubs.
“He commands a lot of respect and that's been earned through what he's done as a player and who he's been as a person on and off the field,” Hannay said.
“He's played the game the right way his whole career, he's a proper footballer.
“The game is littered with athletes these days and Philly is definitely a throwback. He’s skilful with the footy, he’s an outstanding front-on defender and punches way above his weight in defence.
“He hasn't bounced around from club to club, he's essentially been a Souths man and people who come to Souths are well aware of who Phil Dennis is and what he's done and the type of player he’s been and the way he's played the game.”
The question that looms each year for Dennis is that now, at age 32, how long he can keep playing the game.
He and Hannay had a difficult, but necessary conversation about his playing weight at the end of the 2015 season and the former Queensland Residents representative responded by shedding 10kg and starting this season in fine shape.
“The competitiveness of my nature hasn’t left, so I won't stop until I feel that I can't compete at this level and I can't compete with the younger blokes coming through,” said Dennis, who also had a stint with Easts where he played alongside Queensland and Kangaroos stars Steve Renouf and Darren Smith.
“I wouldn't be surprised if we get a year out of Phil that is almost a throwback to back in his prime years,” Hannay said of his skipper’s prospects in 2016.
“We all want Phil to play on for as long as he possibly can and as long as he wants and I just felt for him to do that we needed to get him in the best possible shape.
“If he can maintain that commitment I think he's still got a few years still left in him.
“I feel like he's possibly just wound the clock back a few years.”
Phil Dennis overall statistics:
Games: 214 games (9th all time)
Clubs: Wests (2003), Easts (2004-5), Souths Logan (2006-)
For Souths Logan: 183 games, 24 tries, 7 goals, 110 points
A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.