The signing of Tom Wilson may not have made national headlines, but Collingwood’s latest recruit could prove to be a piece of extremely astute business by the Pies hierarchy. He joins the Melbourne club after turning his back on a promising basketball career, and although it will be some time before he’ll make his AFL debut, he could be an excellent addition to the squad.
The former Australian boomer joins as a category B recruit, and having already represented his country at youth level, he won’t be fazed by playing in front of decent-sized crowd at the MCG. There was plenty of competition for his signature, with the Cats also believed to be interested in snapping up the former junior elite footballer, but it was the Pies who finally landed the former Sydney Kings star. Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson also reportedly met with the 21-year old earlier this year, but no deal was struck.
He opted to step away from the court at the beginning of 2019, and is “excited to join Collingwood Football Club”. Growing up, he supported the Pies, but he admits that switching sports will be an “an adjustment”, and that he has “a lot of work ahead”.
Wilson hasn’t played competitive footy since 2013, when he featured at NAB AFL Under-16 Championships, amd it is likely to take a number of months to get back up to speed. He is taller, stronger and far more powerful these days, and he appears to have lost none of his competitive spirit.
Many of his skills are likely to be transferable, and he is one of number of players to have crossed spheres. Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury was also a promising basketball player in his younger days, with the Sale-born player accepting a scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport before opting to concentrate on his football career instead. San Antonio Spurs star Patty Mills believes that Pendlebury could have enjoyed a successful International career had he remained on the court.
American Mason Cox has made a name for himself over the last twelve months, and the towering 28-year old also began his career as a promising basketball player. He played in the NCAA Division I against future NBA star Joel Embiid. The Texas-born competitor kicked two goals in the 2018 Grand Final, and although he’s been beset by injury problems in recent months, he’s certainly made a name for himself since arriving in Australia.
There will be very little expectation or pressure on Tom Wilson, but he could become an AFL star if the club are able to manage his development correctly. The Pies have made a decent start to 2019, and therefore are unlikely to risk the rookie anytime soon. They’ve won four of their opening six matches, and are 4.50 second-favourites in the latest Aussie Rules betting to bounce back from last year’s disappointment, and win the 2019 Grand Final. They certainly have enough consistency and quality in their side.
Wilson’s journey is an unconventional one, but he may just be a player to keep an eye on. Transferring from basketball to football is a well-trodden path, and not all players have found their skills compatible. The AFL is an extremely competitive division, and the rookie is likely to need time to acclimatise, but he is used to competing at a decent level, and he could prove to be a terrific addition to Collingwood’s roster.