Eric Hipwood has been at the Brisbane Lions for just a couple of months – but, already, his AFL career has been brought into perspective.
The tragic death of 18-year-old Brisbane man Cole Miller – allegedly as the result of an unprovoked one-punch attack in Fortitude Valley in Brisbane – hit home for Hipwood, who attended the same primary school as Miller.
“It gave me a realisation about life and how quickly it can be taken away from you from some idiotic action,” Hipwood told aflplayers.com.au this week.
“The biggest learning I took out of that was it can happen to anybody. It doesn’t just affect him – it also affects the people around him. I hardly knew him, my sister hardly knew him [but] it affected us.
“If it wasn’t for them, i wouldn’t be playing footy. As cheesy and cliche as that sounds, it’s true, because footy’s not that big in Brisbane” – Eric Hipwood
“It’s very, very sad and very, very poor how someone can take action, trying to hit someone to eventually kill them.
“I feel for him and feel for his family.”
The message Hipwood wants to share with one-punch offenders is a simple one.
“You’re not just hurting that person, you’re also hurting the people around them. It effects so many people if you go around trying to hit someone like that.”
A young man with a strong social conscience, Hipwood is settling well into AFL life.
Having lived with star Brisbane Lions midfielder Dayne Beams for a period in 2015, the 202cm key position player is quickly developing an understanding of what it takes to make it at the elite level.
“[Dayne Beams] and his wife Kelly were really nice, taking me in without much notice,” the Brisbane Lions academy player, selected with pick 14 in November’s NAB Draft, said.
“Learning off him in the recovery group [while] having an injury was really good and an eye-opener in how professional you’ve got to be, with [things like] dieting.
“Talking to him about little things like that has been really good and is really going to help with my development.”
Hipwood has enjoyed learning from more than 40 new teammates, but believes he owes his spot on the playing list to the Brisbane Lions academy.
“The academy have been great for me. If it wasn’t for them, i wouldn’t be playing footy. As cheesy and cliche as that sounds, it’s true, because footy’s not that big in Brisbane and on the Sunshine Coast.”
After playing junior footy at both ends of the ground, Hipwood has spent the 2016 pre-season training as a key forward.
Equally happy at either end of the ground, the teenager is simply excited by the prospect of debuting for a team he “always held a soft spot for.”
“I’m really happy I’m here now and couldn’t have asked [to be at] a better club.”