Erin Phillips keeps Adelaide Crows' season alive, and proves she is the gamechanger of the AFLW

The W-League and the Matildas have Sam Kerr, the WNBL had Lauren Jackson, and now the AFLW has Erin Phillips.

If it wasn't already apparent how important Phillips is to the fledgling league, not just her Adelaide Crows, it was made crystal clear against the Western Bulldogs this weekend.

Yes, she's a dual sport star — she is a two-time WNBA champion, an Olympic silver medallist and world championship gold medallist with the Opals.

Her performances for the Crows in the AFLW, however, are re-emphasising her star power.

Last season she kicked eight goals in the regular season, six less than the top scorer, Carlton's Darcy Vescio. But that was only one element of her game.

Now aged 32, Phillips does not have the flat-out acceleration to beat defenders, but she has something better — an ability to read the play, the physicality and athleticism to get in front and take a big grab, and the skill to kick the important goal.

She missed the first two rounds of this year's AFLW with a quad injury, and without her the Crows looked nothing like the team that won the title in 2017.

That all changed in round three. The Crows downed the previously unbeaten Bulldogs, and Phillips kicked four of Adelaide's six goals.

She joins Vescio and her Crows teammate, Sarah Perkins, as the only players to kick four goals in a game of AFLW.

But it's not just the fact she gave her team a boost when she returned from injury — it's her ability to produce under pressure, in key games.

She's clutch. Look at last year's grand final against Brisbane.

With the flag on the line, Phillips produced the single best game by a player in the AFLW so far — 28 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles and two goals.

No one had as many possessions anywhere else during season one, and only one player — Adelaide's Chelsea Randall — has got within five of her mark this season, gathering 24 touches against the Bulldogs.

Need more evidence? Look at yesterday's game against the Bulldogs.

Phillips gave the Crows a focal point up forward — but the big thing about her game is that by her presence she forces opposition defences to key off her, allowing the Crows' other top players to shine.

Sarah Perkins was a star of season one, booting 11 goals. This year as Adelaide struggled in the opening two rounds, Perkins managed to touch the ball a total of four times, with no goals.

In round three, with Phillips playing one-out up forward, Perkins came up the ground and ended up with 11 disposals, two marks and three tackles.

Phillips was not the only Crows player to shine, with Ebony Marinoff (21 disposals and 15 tackles) and Randall (12 marks and six tackles in addition to her 24 possessions) also important for Adelaide.

But it was the returning star who made the difference.

In the first half, Phillips had a chance deep in the right forward pocket, but she pulled her snap just to the left for a behind. In the final quarter, with Adelaide trailing, Phillips had another opportunity.

From almost the same spot in the pocket, the Crows number 13 crumbed it, kicked it through traffic and threaded it through from a crazy angle to give her side the lead.

The Crows went on to secure their first win of the year, and keep their season alive.

There are other AFLW stars, like Carlton's Brianna Davey — who unfortunately tore her ACL in round two — and the Bulldogs' Katie Brennan, who came off injured against Adelaide and left the ground with a moon boot on her right ankle.

Vescio has kicked two goals in three games for Carlton, Perkins is yet to get on the board in season two for the Crows, and the number one draft pick for the Bulldogs, Isabel Huntington, showed great signs before a knee injury ended her season last week.

This just reinforces how important it is to have your stars fit and firing — and this weekend has reminded us that in Erin Phillips, Adelaide has the ultimate gamechanger in the AFLW.