AFLW's greatest in no hurry to answer the biggest question

IT MIGHT be the most intriguing question in football. 

Have we seen the last of the greatest player in this first era of the nascent NAB AFL Women's competition, Erin Phillips?

It wouldn't ordinarily be up for debate. Phillips just capped off a campaign in which she tore the competition to shreds on her way to winning her second competition best and fairest award in three years.

ERIN DOUBLES UP Phillips crowned AFLW's best again

However, a torn ACL in her left knee, sustained during Adelaide's thumping Grand Final victory over Carlton on Sunday, has changed the scenario completely. 

She understands what the road back entails. In 2007, Phillips had a right knee reconstruction, so the brilliant ball-winner is well aware of how arduous the recovery process is.

The countless hours spent in isolation, completing repetitive exercises to return to fitness. The gruelling mental battle and the emotional toll it can take.

Then there are the realities of life. The Crows superstar turns 34 next month. Her wife, Tracy Gahan, is 22 weeks pregnant with their third child. 

In the days since her injury, Phillips has already experienced the disappointment of not being able to play with her twins.

"The hardest part… is having the kids jump all over you and you can't run after them," Phillips said.

Erin Phillips walks with her son Blake after the AFLW Grand Final

Then there's the other side. She's had the opportunity to be an elite footballer for just three short seasons. Before that, Phillips lived vicariously through her brother-in-law and Hawthorn champion Shaun Burgoyne.

"Getting to watch him play in grand finals at the MCG with 90-something thousand people…I was just so envious," Phillips said.

"I was so happy for him but at the same time, I was just so jealous. I just wished that I could experience that." 

Phillips tasted it last Saturday. Adelaide Oval looked glorious as 53,034 spectators watched the Crows add a second flag to their collection. For the Virgin Australia AFL Women's All Australian skipper, it signalled a moment head office should recognise. 

"This can be a really good moment, especially when that kind of crowd does show you this is a serious competition," Phillips said. 

"These are girls playing at the highest level in the greatest game in the world, and we should potentially be playing more games." 

Crows fans show their support at the AFLW Grand Final

Her vision for female footballers is to have parity with their AFL peers. 

"The (women's) competition would look like the AFL. These girls would have full-time roles playing football. No one would have to come from work to train. That's all they'd focus on…becoming better football players. That's the dream," Phillips said.

"It'll be a few years away I think. With the new teams, we've got to really develop the younger girls, but I definitely think down the track (it could happen)." 

Phillips is the AFLW's marquee player, and her ongoing participation would only accelerate that dream's path to reality. 

She knows what needs to happen, having been through it in the Women's National Basketball League. 

"I was part of the Adelaide Lightning when we were training at 6am and the girls were going off to (study and work)…and we'd train after hours. Now there are girls there full-time," Phillips said.

"Even though I wish that was around in my era, it's still special to be part of those trailblazing girls (who) keep pushing for that to happen.

"It would be very satisfying to see one day when that does happen (in the AFLW)." 

There will come a time when the dual AFL Players' Association MVP has to weigh up all these factors and decide whether she keeps wreaking havoc on the field.

That time hasn't come yet. 

"Right now, I wouldn't make any decisions because it's all emotional and I know I'm at the bottom of a big mountain to climb, getting through this 'rehab'," Phillips said. 

"If I'm halfway through it and I say 'Yep, I'm going to play again', I will. I don't think there's much need right now to say yes or no."