Growing up as an Essendon supporter, it was a pinch-myself moment for Toby Greene who walked into the GIANTS preparing to be coached by one of his idols Kevin Sheedy.
Greene learnt a lot from his new mentor, who he said went about things a little bit differently.
“Sheeds is different and unique for sure. I was an Essendon supporter growing up so he was someone I knew a lot about; it was pretty surreal to be honest,” Green told The Inner Sanctum.
“He was great, and I learnt some good life lessons from Sheeds.
“It’s definitely something I will be telling the grandkids down the line that I was able to be coached by him.”
Greene was one of the players initially drafted to GWS, secured by the club with pick 11 in the 2011 draft.
He recalls the transition into the club as one that felt like being among his mates at a school camp.
“It felt like school camp initially. It was a whirlwind experience, meeting a lot of new friends the first couple of months,” he said.
“I only knew a couple of the guys I got drafted with like Dom Tyson and Jonny Patton.
“I’d never been to Sydney or Wester Sydney either and that’s why I think it felt like the school camp too.”
To support the changes, Greene acknowledged the likes of his co-captains, Phil Davis and Callan Ward as key influences at the club in the initial building stages, along with his coaches, Sheedy and Leon Cameron.
“Phil and Callan were really instrumental in settling the clubs values, along with Leon, but also Sheeds in the first couple of years. They were probably the four key drivers, but from the player perspective, definitely Phil and Cal.”
Comparing Sheedy and Cameron was like apples to oranges for not just Greene, but for his other teammates who noticed key differences in the way their two coaches addressed the team.
Greene pays respects to Cameron for being such a pivotal part in building the club over the years, and for achieving the success they have particularly in recent years.
“Leon had such a tough job in the first couple of years with such a young squad and he was more about teaching and learning and installing some key values and making sure that no one got ahead of themselves, and understanding we had a lot of work to do,” he said.
“He was massive in building the group up and getting us to a level where we could compete each weekend. And he's changed his coaching style over time definitely but he’s had a lot to do with the growth of the club and the results show that.”
What Greene though will remain grateful for, is that Cameron along with the other coaching staff and board at the Giants have done is never give up on their talented forward, who has found himself into some trouble over the years.
Greene found himself in trouble for an off-field incident in Victoria in 2014.
The GIANTS believed in their young player, sticking by him through the earlier stages of his career, while at the same time making sure he knew the behaviours he demonstrated were far from acceptable.
“It took me a long time to switch on and show the behaviour required of a football player 24/7, but that’s all part of the learning journey and it's something I've really enjoyed,” he said.
“The club’s been great, they never threw me under the bus, and always had a belief that I could repay the faith and I’m excited to do that.
“There have been a couple of tough conversations early for sure, and I probably had to grow up pretty soon, quicker than what was required.
“It’s been a journey and the GIANTS have stuck with me through that and I'll stick by the club. In these means, it’s a great relationship we have.”
Despite all this, Greene has enjoyed his time at the GIANTS, and promises to continue to repay them for their belief by displaying the clubs values both on and off the field.
His hard work has paid off, with Greene being elected into the leadership group in 2020. He was further rewarded with the position of vice-captain heading into 2021.
“I just enjoyed being a part of the growth of the club, and I’d like to think I played an important part in building the club and its values.”
“Also the people I've met along the journey, that I'll be friends with for the rest of my life. Being a GIANT means a lot to me and not many people can say that they played a piece in building a club.”