Why Sixers BBL title charge just got that little bit harder
Josh Philippe will have to overcome the curse of being named as the Big Bash player of the year to complete the perfect season.
The first player from the Sydney Sixers to win the tournament's highest individual honour, the wicketkeeper-batsman will have to break another jinx to win back to back titles in Saturday's grand final at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Although he was named man of the match in last year's final, no-one who has taken the player of the tournament award has won the championship in the same year, so Philippe will need to end that hoodoo.
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The leading keeper this season with 15 dismissals under his belt and currently second on this season's runscoring list with 499 at an average of 33.26, Philippe polled 22 votes to win the award, decided by on-field umpires.
He finished two clear of Sydney Thunder's explosive opener Alex Hales, the English import who still has the Golden Bat as the leading runscorer but is just 44 runs ahead of Philippe.
Perth Scorchers fast bowler Jhye Richardson, the Golden Arm leader for this season with 27 wickets, finished third overall after polling 19 votes.
"We'd like to congratulate Josh Philippe on another outstanding season at the top of the order for the Sydney Sixers and being named the KFC BBL|10 Player of the Tournament," Cricket Australia's Head of Big Bash Leagues Alistair Dobson said.
"This is a richly deserved accolade and recognition for a number of matchwinning performances, which have guided the Sixers to a second consecutive home Final at the SCG and selection in the Australian Men's T20I squad."
KFC BBL|10 PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT
Josh Philippe (Sydney Sixers) - 22 votes
Alex Hales (Sydney Thunder) - 20 votes
Jhye Richardson (Perth Scorchers) - 19 votes
Glenn Maxwell (Melbourne Stars) - 18 votes
Ben McDermott (Hobart Hurricanes) - 17 votes
Chris Lynn (Brisbane Heat) - 17 votes
Colin Munro (Perth Scorchers) - 17 votes
D'Arcy Short (Hobart Hurricanes) - 16 votes
Shaun Marsh (Melbourne Renegades) - 15 votes
Jake Weatherald (Adelaide Strikers) - 15 votes
THE SIXERS SUPERSTAR THAT SMUDGE SAVED BECOMES THE BEST
Before he was crowned the best player in the Big Bash, Sydney Sixers' sensation Josh Philippe was just like every other bug-eyed youngster desperate for the chance to show everyone what he can do.
But when the tearaway nicknamed Flip got his first offer to join a franchise, he knocked it back, because it was the wrong team on the other end of the line.
Still in his teens and living with his parents in Western Australia, Philippe had his heart set on playing for the Perth Scorchers even though they didn't have a spot for him.
So after giving it some thought and talking with his manager and parents, he politely told the Sixers' general manager Jodie Hawkins he was declining their approach.
Instead of turning the Sixers off him, his rejection only reinforced their belief they were chasing the right guy.
With an eye for talent, the Sixers' head coach Greg Shipperd had already identified Philippe as a rare gem but his sense of loyalty to his local side told the Sixers everything they wanted to know about his character.
"At the Sixers, we treat everyone like they are family, and we knew straight away that Josh was the sort of person that fitted our culture, so I enlisted a little help from a friend, in the name of Steve Smith," Hawkins said.
"Steve just had a bit of a chat with Josh about what the Sixers were like and how beneficial it could be to come and play for the Sixers and that was how it started, then we got a call and he said he's changed his mind and would love to come and play for us."
By his own admission, it was Smith's call that persuaded Philippe to head east. Not only is Smith his hero, but they bear an uncanny resemblance. It was, Philippe reasoned, fate.
Initially signed on a one-year deal, Philippe was an instant hit, scoring 304 runs, including a Sixers franchise record of 86 not out, so he was offered an extension.
Again, he paused, wanting to give the Scorchers a chance to come up with a counter offer, before re-signing with the Sixers.
Hawkins flew to Perth to meet up with Philippe and his family to ensure they were comfortable with the longer deal - a three-year contract with a rented apartment in Coogee, where all the other interstate players were housed.
"He's from a lovely family, he's got a twin sister who I've met and his parents are absolutely lovely people so you can see why he is the kid that he is," Hawkins said.
"We were very keen to re-sign him but we also wanted to respect what he wanted to do because he's still a young man who's going through a steep learning curve, including being selected in Australian squads.
"His welfare is very important to us and we're just so glad he's part of our team because he's a very genuine person who has genuinely bought into our culture so we are already talking to him about another extension."
Philippe's form has been better each year he's played and he's now one of the biggest draw cards in the entire tournament.
Last season, he scored 487 runs and was named player of the match in the final, which the Sixers won and this season, he's belted 499 runs, including a career-best 95, and is through to another final.
"Shippy has a very good eye for talent and how to develop young players but talent is one thing and fulfilling it is another," Hawkins said.
"We're just delighted with how he's gone and we've never looked back since he joined the Sixers."
Originally published as Why Sixers BBL title charge just got that little bit harder