He was bruised, battered and bloodied in his basketball career, but it was Australian rules football that flowed in those veins long before he ever hit his first 3-pointer.
Former Lobo Hugh Greenwood, the four-year starting point guard for the University of New Mexico men’s basketball, is reportedly hanging up the high tops and leaving a professional basketball contract with the Perth Wildcats to pursue a career in Aussie rules football, fulfilling a promise he made years ago to his late grandfather, a legend in the sport.
“I told him I’d get him that last game for the family,” Greenwood told the Journal via text message from Perth, Australia, referring to his grandfather Peter Marquis having played 99 professional games in a hall of fame AFL career.
Greenwood, the native of Tasmania, Australia, added he didn’t plan to talk about the decision more at this time.
Marquis, known affectionately as “Trunky” back home, is a member of the Tasmania football hall of fame and is considered one of the legends of the sport. He played for Devonport and Melbourne, where he was a star fullback and at one point was a key part of three consecutive Grand Final championship victories from 1955-57, much like Greenwood was a starting point guard for three consecutive Mountain West Tournament championships with the Lobos from 2012-14.
It was Marquis’ wearing of the No. 3 that led to Greenwood wearing that number on his jersey in his Lobo career. Marquis played his 99th, and final, AFL game with Melbourne in 1958.
Lobos head coach Craig Neal said he spoke with Greenwood on Thursday (Perth, Australia, is 14 hours ahead of the Mountain time zone) about the decision and told his former player he will support him in any way he can.
“We’re happy for him,” Neal said. “We’ve always known, with where he’ from and his family history, that this was something he wanted to do. He’ll be great.”
The Wildcats, the professional basketball team Greenwood recently signed a three year contract with, posted the news over night on its Twitter feed saying it was “disappointed” with the decision but would allow Greenwood to break his contract without penalty to pursue his AFL career.
“Unfortunately Hugh Greenwood’s decision not to honour his contract poses a significant challenge for us,” said Perth’s managing director Nick Marvin. “Whilst he leaves with our best wishes, it does require us to revise our recruiting strategy immediately. We made numerous decisions based on his commitment to us, so we are disappointed to lose him.”
Thursday’s news shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. Greenwood has never kept his desire to return to the sport of “footy” once he felt his pursuit of playing basketball for Australia in the Olympics had come to an end. Greenwood was not on the recent Boomers roster that qualified for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
AFL teams offered Greenwood professional contracts before his senior season at UNM, offers he obviously turned down to pursue, at the time, basketball.
In November 2013, before his junior season at UNM began, Greenwood told the Journal his plan to return to the pitch one day.
“If I wasn’t on their national radar (for basketball), I’d be off playing footy right now,” Greenwood said. “My dream is to play in the Olympic Games and obviously that happens through the national team. If they weren’t still interested in me, I’d be playing Aussie rules footy.”
Greenwood played on Australia’s World University Games team last month and and was a star guard on the country’s junior national team in his teenage years when he attended the Australian Institute of Sport before coming to UNM.