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Grass is greener for Hugh

Katrina Gill  June 23, 2017 4:17 PM

Hugh Greenwood Presser June 23 Hugh Greenwood speaks to media following our disappointing loss to Hawthorn.
I don’t know too many of the other blokes I’m playing against or what’s going on, so I sort of just go out there and have a crack

Ignorance is proving to be bliss for promising Crow Hugh Greenwood.

After spending most of his adult life in the United States playing basketball, Greenwood needed a crash course in AFL when he quit basketball to restart his football career 18 months ago.

Five games into his AFL career, the big-bodied midfielder still writes down names and jumper numbers to familiarise himself with opponents.

He knows he has a lot to learn, but is enjoying and thriving at footy in its simplest form.

“I don’t know too many of the other blokes I’m playing against or what’s going on, so I sort of just go out there and have a crack,” Greenwood said.

“I didn’t really come in with too many expectations.

“(Playing AFL) was one of those things that I didn’t know if it was ever going to happen for me. Now that the opportunity is here, I’m just trying to enjoy it for what it is and to make the most of it.

“I’m still a long way off where I want to be … but it’s all part of the learning process.”

On a disappointing night for Adelaide on Thursday, Greenwood played his best game at the level.

The 25-year-old recorded a career-high 21 possessions at an elite 95 per cent efficiency.

He laid nine tackles among a game-high 30 pressure acts and won six clearances.

Greenwood also kicked two goals, including an instinctive snap on his powerful left foot.

He did all of it in only 68 per cent game time as he continues to build his “motor”.

Physicality is often an adjustment for athletes making the transition to football from non-contact sports.

But that’s not the case for the 190cm, 90kg, Greenwood, who is basing his game on the contest.

“I spoke to my old man (Michael) when I was going through a form slump last year,” Greenwood said.

“I didn’t really have a footy ‘identity’ at the time because I’d been away from the sport for so long.

“Dad told me that back when I was playing junior footy, tackling, pressure and contest work was what I used to do well. I thought, alright I’ll focus on that area.

“Sure enough, it helped me in the (SANFL) finals last year and has taken me into this season as well.”

Playing his first season of football since Under-16s, Greenwood starred in Adelaide’s SANFL finals campaign last year.

The Tasmanian said SANFL coach Ryan O’Keefe had encouraged him to play the same way at AFL level.

“I work closely with ‘ROK’ (SANFL coach Ryan O’Keefe) and one of the things we identified is when I’m playing my best footy, is just bringing energy and effort,” Greenwood said.

“That’s my role in this group and … for me, it’s just about playing a role.”

Like many basketball converts, Greenwood has excellent anticipation and his impressive wingspan allows him to get a hand to balls that others can’t.

At one stage in Adelaide’s loss to Hawthorn, the former New Mexico guard leapt and swatted a Hawks’ handball out of bounds in a play more often seen on the hard court.

“He’s one of those unique players, who’s got a real good feel for the situation around the contest,” said Crows coach Don Pyke.

“His ability to knock balls down and disrupt the opposition is very good. Some of his ball take inside is really clean and his tackling (is strong).”

One opponent Greenwood does know is Scott Pendlebury – the Collingwood star and player that every ex-basketballer gets compared to in AFL ranks.

A talented junior basketballer himself, Pendlebury was impressed by the former Boomer on Thursday night.

The recruitment of Greenwood as a Category-B rookie is looking like a coup for the Crows and their national Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie.

A former coach in Tassie, Ogilvie kept tabs on Greenwood for eight years after seeing him represent the state as a 15-year-old.

Greenwood, whose grandfather Peter Marquis played 99 VFL games for Melbourne including three premierships, said Ogilvie and Adelaide’s persistence made it an easy decision when it came to choosing an AFL club.

“Anytime a (basketball) season of mine finished, I could expect a phone call within 24 hours or a text message from ‘Haggis’ (Ogilvie),” he said.

“Whenever I came home to Australia, he was like ‘Do you want to check out the facilities and have a look around?’

“He and ‘Nobes’ (former Head of Football David Noble) even came and visited me in the States. When they made the effort to get over there and have a look, that’s when I knew I was going to trust them.

“It’s a special Club and I’m thankful they’ve given me the opportunity.”

Greenwood sensationally walked away from a contract with the Perth Wildcats to join the Crows in August, 2015.

As fate would have it, the Wildcats have won two NBL Championships since – something not lost on Hawks skipper and avid basketball fan, Jarryd Roughead.

“It was funny. Last night, ‘Roughy’ came up and said, ‘You could’ve won two rings with Perth if you’d stuck around’ and I said, ‘Nah mate, I’d rather be out here running on Adelaide Oval’,” Greenwood said.

“I’m very happy to be here.”

However, it was Roughead who had the last laugh as Hawthorn upset Adelaide by 14 points.

Greenwood said his team needed to be better when challenged by opposition teams.

“It was a disappointing night. As a group, we think the fans deserve better, the members deserve better,” he said.

“I thought the energy and effort in the first half was great, but our skills weren’t up to par.

“In the second half, I thought it was almost a flip. Again, our skills weren’t quite up to the level but with the energy and effort Hawthorn raised it another notch and we probably didn’t go with them.”