Chris Green is on the phone from the United States.
It’s 10:20pm on Thursday night (around lunchtime Friday in Sydney) and even though he’s getting ready to go to bed, you can hear the pride in his voice as he speaks about his nephew, Tom.
“We’ve got a very late family group chat and it’s been very busy since it was announced Tom would be playing this week,” he said.
A debutant playing their first game is special for any family, but this week has taken on an added poignancy for Chris and his family.
Chris is the older brother of Tom’s dad Richard and they’re an especially close-knit bunch despite the geographical distance.
Chris was living in Sydney with his family while Tom’s family moved all around Australia for Richard’s work.
Then Chris and his family, including Tom’s cousin Patrick, moved to the US after Chris took up a job at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
“Tom and my son Patrick were really close, they were great mates,” Chris said.
“They spent as much time as they could together and were always very, very close.”
As was well documented in the lead-up to the 2019 national draft, Patrick was killed in a car accident during the middle of last year.
“Of course it’s tough for our family, but it’s fine,” Chris said.
The Greens are a hardcore footy family. Chris and Richard’s dad Michael Green is a four-time premiership player with the Tigers.
This morning, Chris got up at 4:30am to watch Richmond’s season opener against the Blues. He’ll do the same on Saturday morning to watch Tom.
“I had already half-booked flights and worked out coming out to watch him play,” Chris said.
But with the uncertainty around the season, closed Stadiums and debutants families initially being told they couldn’t attend, it became an impossible task.
Instead, they’ll be intently tuned in to their TV in the early hours of the morning.
They’ve got a soft spot for the GIANTS now. Chris was part of the team who helped facilitate the GIANTS’ move of their training and administration facility from Blacktown to Sydney Olympic Park many years ago.
And Tom has been part of the GIANTS Academy in Canberra since he was 12.
Chris describes Tom Green, the footballer.
“He’s just an incredibly competitive kid and has been since the time he was born,” he said.
“I’m sure he drove his parents up the wall.”
But off the field, he’s “quiet and emotional”.
Since Patrick’s death, Tom has become close to Chris’ wife, they talk often and share memories.
It will be a strange debut for Tom this week as he runs out on to a closed GIANTS Stadium.
Dad Richard, mum Mel and his three younger brothers will be allowed to watch from the stands.
His grandparents will be tuned in from Melbourne.
And in the States, Chris and his family will be up early to watch their nephew live out his football dream.