Where are they now? Phil Kearns
Photo: SPA Images
Mention the name Phil Kearns to rugby fans in Australia and they’ll probably fall into one of two categories. Those that remember seeing the double World Cup winning hooker running around for the NSW Waratahs and the Wallabies, or a younger generation that recognise him as one of the faces – and voices – of the game on Fox Sports every week.
But while his affable reportage over 15 years on your TV screens has probably brought him to an even bigger audience than his renowned playing exploits did for the previous 15 years, that’s not the only success the multi-talented Kearns has enjoyed in a busy post-education career.
Having graduated from UNSW with an Arts degree, majoring in Economics and Economics History, Kearns has always had other strings to his bow away from sport. But while he has since forged a string of blue-chip achievements in the fields of sales, marketing, business development and wealth management, he didn’t mind getting his hands dirty back in the day, at a time when rugby was still very much an amateur sport.
Previous jobs included barman, doorman, labourer on a building site and marketing Toohey’s around the country but it’s his stint selling insurance for AMP that sticks in his mind. “It was the best and the worst job I’ve ever had. Making 100 calls a day and 99% of them are negative responses certainly teaches you resilience.”
Having made his debut for the Waratahs in 1988, interestingly against a NSW B team that also featured Michael Hooper’s father, Kearns forged a glittering career that took in 73 caps for his state, 67 caps for his country – including 10 as captain – and saw him retire in 1999 as one of only six men to hold two Rugby World Cup winner’s medals.
He also feels that being in the generation of players that undertook the transition to a professional game was a privilege. “It was a great time, looking back, to be able to compete in both the amateur and professional eras and I think those of us that got to do that were very lucky. We had a lot of fun and certainly, to be able to witness the change that professionalism brought was an eye opener as well.”
Asked for some highlights of his time donning the Cambridge Blue, he recalls some memorable matches against the world’s best. “I think the success that we had against touring teams was pretty special. We beat South Africa here in ’92, we should have beaten the British & Irish Lions in ’89 in a fantastic game at North Sydney Oval, we had success against the All Blacks, we had a record 71-8 victory against Wales and we also beat England at that time.”
After hanging up the boots post-World Cup in ‘99, he was invited to put his knowledge and experience to good use as a commentator, for what was then a fledgling Fox Sports. It was the start of a happy and long standing relationship.
“Greg Martin and Greg Clarke were there when I joined and you can’t work with two better blokes. It’s always natural, we don’t rehearse anything and whether it’s by accident or design, what we’ve tried to do is just sound like a couple of mates watching the footy.”
His increased profile, leadership skills and focus on teamwork certainly hasn’t harmed his day-to-day business interests. Since his retirement from the sporting arena, his portfolio has risen exponentially, from an IT training and software business, through seven years of business development for Investec bank and onto his most recent success as CEO of Centric Wealth, a financial services and wealth management company.
At Investec Bank, working with Australian and international colleagues, he was instrumental in building the bank’s client base and introducing a wide range of investment products for their consideration. Joining Centric Wealth in late 2011, Kearns once again applied his leadership skills and team-oriented approach and successfully grew the Centric Wealth business while maintaining its commitment to excellent client service.
The company was recently sold for $130 million and Phil is currently scouting around for his next opportunity. In the meantime, he’s happy to sit back and watch the current crop of New South Welshmen go from strength to strength.
“I don’t remember seeing a more complete performance from the Waratahs since we beat Wales 71-8 in 1991,” he enthused about the team’s last match against the Highlanders. “I thought it was amazing.
“I actually sat in the crowd with my wife and kids, had a few beers, enjoyed the game and was thrilled to see the joy this team has brought to it’s supporters. I love watching them play.”
Original version published in the NSW Waratahs v Brumbies match program on July 26th, 2014