This story was originally published on May 12, 2016.
Like many young Australians, AFL convert Hugh Greenwood was interested in multiple sports from an early age.
But he was one of the select few that possessed serious potential in more than one and was thrown Australian Institute of Sport scholarships in AFL and basketball.
When he came to the cross-roads as a teenager, Greenwood chose the sport he loved more.
“I was probably the same talent-wise with footy and basketball as a junior but chose basketball because it was what I enjoyed more. Maybe I got sick of those cold nights training out at Tassie when I had the luxury of training at an indoor court,” Greenwood tells Aflplayers.com.au.
“Basketball also gave me the ability to travel the world so being young and getting my first trip to Italy is what initially attracted me to it.”
Greenwood was considered a bright prospect after representing his state in the Under 16s National Carnival in 2006 before choosing hoops over the big sticks.
Following four years at the AIS and “over 150 games”, Greenwood played college basketball for the University of New Mexico while completing a psychology degree before returning to Australia and signing a three-year deal with the Perth Wildcats in the NBL.
But only a few months into the long-term deal, he opted out in search of a contract with the Adelaide Crows.
Calling it the “best decision of his life”, the 193cm forward said the timing was right to choose another career path so his mother — who has terminal breast cancer — could get the chance to see him play at the elite level.
“It was a difficult decision. I felt I’d exhausted every option in my basketball career and made a promise to my mum that while she’s still here I’d accomplish my dreams.
“Obviously I didn’t achieve my NBA and Olympic dream so I’ve moved onto AFL footy, but the big thing was promising her that while she’s still here, I’ll play at the elite level.
“She has terminal secondary breast cancer. She had breast cancer and was in remission for a year and it came back to her lungs. Once it spreads to a second organ it’s basically incurable.
“It’s more an against-the-clock kind of thing, so we’re just trying all kinds of medication and keeping her quality of life and ability to travel and see my sister who lives in the states and me playing footy here in Adelaide.
“78 percent of women die within five years of being diagnosed so it’s something we have to deal with every day but she’s positive and what drives her drives me and vice versa. We’re making the best of the situation.”
Signed as a three-year non-registered rookie selection in August — the same rule that landed ex-cricketer Alex Keath at the Crows last year — Greenwood had a few weeks to get accustomed to the lifestyle of an AFL footballer at the end of 2015.
Following his first summer as an Adelaide player, the mature-aged recruit admits an AFL pre-season was a shock to the system.
“It was long, I can tell you that. Basketball and AFL pre-seasons are 100 percent different. Basketball pre-season goes for about two to three weeks whereas footy goes for about two to three months, so there wasn’t a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for a while there.
“When I came back from the off-season break, I’d put on a bit of weight because I knew I needed to add a bit of size to compete with the likes of Josh Jenkins and Tex Walker. But the game has changed from the last time I actually played. Nowadays it’s all about how much ground you can cover so I probably came back a little bit too heavy and became pretty slow.
“I remember rocking up to the 2km time trial and feeling pretty confident in myself and basically came last so it was a good reality check for me. It was never going to come quickly and I expected it to be that way, it’s going to take some time and eventually I’ll see the rewards.
“The club were really good at managing my workload so I didn’t breakdown and I managed to get through it. Right now I’m a lot fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been.”
— Adelaide Crows (@Adelaide_FC) April 25, 2016
The hard work seems to be paying off so far for Greenwood. He’s played all six games for Adelaide in the SANFL, kicking six goals in the past three and being named in the best players twice.
The 24-year-old is focussed on continually improving each week while working on his running capacity and skill efficiency — aspects of the game that would be a bit rusty for anyone who hasn’t played for about eight years – and he is getting in as many ears as possible to learn the caper.
But with footballing pedigree in his blood — grandfather Peter Marquis was a three-time premiership player with Melbourne in the 1950s — all the signs suggest Greenwood is adapting and progressing well.
His next challenge, however, is converting his Demon-loving family into West Lakes’ supporters and they’re putting up a decent fight.
“Both my parents are big footy fans so they’re enjoying this transition, but I bought my Nan an Adelaide scarf for Christmas and she refuses to wear it because she’s Melbourne through and through.
“But I’m slowly converting her to the Crows.”