Rockets' MVP has played last game for club
BASKETBALL: After almost a decade of success, popular Rockhampton Rockets captain Mitch Philp has called time at the club.
The point guard first appeared as a green 18-year-old in 2008 and served his apprenticeship under Darren Richardson, Ben Thompson and Stephen Weigh. Their foundation paved the way for Philp to lead the Rockets in their back-to-back run in 2013 and 2014.
Philp made the gut wrenching decision to relocate to Brisbane after accepting a career promotion.
He has been instrumental in shaping the Rockets and a vital cog in their four championships. His accolades are lengthy, QBL All Star 5, finals MVP, to competition steals and assists leader.
Rockets coach Neal Tweedy could not speak higher of his star man.
"He's probably one of, if not the most successful Rockets of all time," Tweedy said.
"Participating in seven QBL grand finals over the last nine season.
"Over the years there have been a number of talented local players who have come into the Rockets program but Philp has stood out as someone who was driven and committed to do the work required to play at this level.
"That in itself is a rare trait."
Philp puts his commitment down to his connection to the team and the program.
His father Marcus was the cameraman for the Rockets in the late 90's, which gave young Philp the opportunity to be around the team.
"It was definitely an aspiration from a young age for me" Philp said.
"I started playing the sport when I was 10-years-old, and even at that early age I had my sights set on playing for the Rockets."
When Philp reflects back over the last nine years there are a number of moments which stand out.
"The first championship in '08, and winning the National title was really special, but I think the back to back run in '13 and '14 would have to be the highlight.
"That was just a fun time to be a part of the Rockets."
In that sense it's not surprising what Philp will miss most? "Team-mates. Definitely the team-mates".
"It was not an easy decision. Basketball has been my first priority for a long time," he said.
"The sport has been great to me. It's taken me to the USA. It's taken me to the NBL.
"Playing in front of the vocal Hegvold stadium crowd is something that will always be incredibly special, but I've got a great opportunity with my career that I just can't say no to."
Whilst Philp is open to the possibility of playing in Brisbane, he is yet to lock anything away.
"I'd love to keep on playing. I felt like last season was one of my best yet, and I still very much love the game. I'll just wait and see."
With Philp unavailable for the 2017 season, it opens up opportunities for some other players to step up, with Jared Blanchard, and twins Damon and Leon Christensen touted as players who might be ready to make the jump.
"There are always challenges when you lose experienced players, but the flip side of that is it provides opportunities," he said.
"A lot of our younger guards are exactly where Mitch was nine years ago. It's now up to them to do the work, and give themselves every opportunity to have a similar impact on our program."