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Greenwood's new beginnings

Hugh Beginnings Channel Crow gets a chance to sit down and have a chat with former basketballer Hugh Greenwood about how he is settling in at the footy club.
I never thought I’d have the guts to actually pull the trigger after doing basketball for so long and putting so much into it.
Hugh Greenwood

Crows recruit Hugh Greenwood admits he didn’t think he’d “have the guts” to make the life-changing decision and take up football after a promising college basketball career in the US.

Greenwood, 23, joined Adelaide on a two-year Category B rookie contract in September.

The former Australian Boomers representative was only a few weeks into a new deal with NBL Club, Perth Wildcats, when he made the decision to quit basketball and pursue football – a sport he showed promise in as a junior, but hadn’t played since the age of 15.

Greenwood, who trialled with NBA side Utah Jazz in May, always left the door open to a possible return to footy, but said it had been a difficult decision to walk away from basketball.

“It all happened really quickly,” Greenwood said.

“I came back to Australia (from the US) and signed with Perth. I was only there for a couple of weeks. Some things happened and this opportunity (with Adelaide) presented itself … it was too hard to turn down in the end.

“I’d always kept my options open. I never thought I’d have the guts to actually pull the trigger after doing basketball for so long and putting so much into it.”

A key factor behind Greenwood’s sporting switch was his relationship with Crows National Recruiting Manager Hamish Ogilvie.

Greenwood was discovered by Ogilvie, who was working as Talent ID coach in Tassie at the time. The pair also spent time together in the Tasmanian state program before Ogilvie joined the Crows as a recruiter.

The persistent Ogilvie remained in contact with the talented athlete even after he relocated to the US to attend the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Adelaide was one of several AFL clubs to keep in touch with the promising prospect.

“Haggis (Ogilvie) gave me calls every now and then and told me that if I even thought about coming back to footy, he was the first person I needed to call,” Greenwood said.

“He’d keep tabs on my season. As every (basketball) season finished and every time I was back in Australia, he’d be on the phone asking to catch up for a coffee and hang out with Mum and Dad.

“Sure enough, it was weighing on my mind and I gave him a call.

“The next thing I know, I’m here in Adelaide.”

Greenwood’s career change came as a shock to the Australian basketball community.

He thanked the Perth Wildcats and Boomers teammates, including Crows Ambassador Patty Mills and local Joe Ingles, for their support and understanding.

“There were mixed emotions. People that know me well and understand me have all reached out to me and congratulated me, and believe it’s for the best,” Greenwood said.

“The Wildcats guys, who I’d grown close with in only a couple weeks that I’d been there, were really supportive considering what happened as was the Club as a whole. They were disappointed, but they supported my decision.

“They told me, ‘It’s not going to be easy’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I know. It’s not going to be easy at all.’

“But for myself and my family it was the right thing to do.”

Greenwood has exceptional sporting pedigree.

His late grandfather, Peter Marquis, played in three consecutive VFL premierships with Melbourne (1955-57) in his 99 games, and also represented Victoria.

His mother, Andree, also played basketball as does his younger sister, Josie, who is a member of the University of New Mexico Lobos women’s team. His father, Michael, played water polo for Australia.

Greenwood was introduced to football through Auskick in Tassie as a four-year-old. He went through the junior ranks at the Lauderdale Football Club and represented his state at the Under-16 National Championships as a ‘bottom-age’ player.

At the age of 15, Greenwood accepted a basketball scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport, effectively ending his football career … until now.

The left-footer has been eased into training since arriving at West Lakes in late-August. His immediate focus is increasing his aerobic endurance and recapturing his football skills.

“I’ve played elite-level sports for quite a while but footy is a completely different ball game,” he said.

“There’s so much ground to cover. Just my skills as well, I haven’t touched a footy for eight years, so those things will need to come back.

“They’re just two of many things I need to do before I can play AFL footy.”

Greenwood admits there have already been a few “reality checks”.

And he knows there will be more.

“There will be days where I feel I’m coming along really well and then I’ll have a session like I did this morning where I didn’t do very well at all,” he said.

“I’ve worked with the SANFL guys and I’ve got a long way to go to get up to speed with them, and then obviously it’s another step again to get to AFL level.

“It’s a patience thing, and I’m very stubborn and want to achieve as quickly as I can. The reality is, it will take some time. I have to keep telling myself that I’ve been out for eight years.

“If I continue to do the right things and trust the process, it will all work out.”

Greenwood has been training with the Crows forwards and their line coach David Teague.

At 193cm and 93kg, the agile rookie has aspirations of becoming a big-bodied midfielder, but understands there’s plenty of work to be done to reach that point. And he’s up for it.

While his teammates enjoy their first week of leave, Greenwood is embarking on a ‘mini pre-season’.

“I want to try and get my cardio and skills up to speed, so that when I slot in with the group in November it’s as if I didn’t stop playing footy,” he said.

“I’ll take a couple of weeks off at some stage, so I don’t burn out in the pre-season because all the boys say it’s a gruelling time, and that four months of pre-season isn’t easy.

“I’m so motivated to play AFL footy that I’m not ready to stop yet, but I know I’ll need to.”

Greenwood, who has spent a bit of time in Adelaide previously training with the 36ers, and partner Kjiersten have settled well into life in a new city.

His Crows teammates, including avid Fantasy Football and American College sport fans Josh Jenkins and Tom Lynch, have made the transition easier, staring with captain Taylor Walker picking Greenwood up from Adelaide Airport upon his arrival.

“Coming in at the highest level and, especially at the time of year when the boys were coming into finals and with everything that had happened off the field, I was expecting just to slot in quietly and go about my business,” he said.

“But the boys have been fantastic in getting around me. They’ve taken me out to dinner, driven me places and we’ve been out walking the dogs – all that kind of fun stuff. It’s almost been overwhelming.

“There’s an incredible culture here. I said that if I ever did make the change back to footy, that Adelaide would be where I wanted to go.”

Greenwood’s long blond locks have been a talking point since his recruitment, but not many footy fans know the story behind his hair style.

He’s growing his hair to help raise awareness for Breast Cancer – an illness his mother has been battling since 2007. Greenwood also has a pink ribbon tattoo on his wrist in support of the cause.

“I’ve copped a bit of heat from the fans here about cutting my hair!” he said with a laugh.

“I started my own fundraiser last year and we’ve raised $75,000 for local hospitals in the state of New Mexico where I was playing college basketball,” he said.

“I became attached to the hair. I was meant to shave it off towards the end of last year, but when my foundation or fundraiser reaches $100,000 I’ll eventually shave it.

“Either our fans can get onto that, or they can put up with my long hair!”

Find out more or donate to Greenwood’s fundraiser