He’s gone face to face with the NBL’s best. There’s swagger and bravado. Big words and at times, chest-thumping hostility.
But it can take the brutal, heartfelt honesty of a young boy to stop Greg Hire in his tracks.
“I had this young kid tell me the other day how he used to play basketball but doesn’t play any more. I asked him why not? And he said ‘because one day, Mummy didn’t wake up in the morning.’ Some of the stories are really touching,” Hire said.
The Wildcats forward has plenty of stories just like that one. Too many unfortunately.
But while he can, he’s doing his best to help out those less fortunate than he is.
“Look I’m never going to be a Ricky Grace or a Scott Fisher. But while I can and the Wildcats are still supportive of me, I am going to use that profile to the best of my ability,” he said.
“I am very fortunate. I haven’t had to deal with depression or anxiety in my life. But some of my best mates and family members have been affected. It’s horrible. If I can help out that’s what I’m going to do.”
Hire is an ambassador for Youth Focus. It is a Perth based charity offering mental health support to young people. He joined the cause following discussions with West Coast Eagles vice-captain Beau Waters, who is a board member with Youth Focus.
Soon, he’ll be launching the 'Kicks 4 Kids' project. Unique items, such as game worn shoes will be auctioned off, with all proceeds going to Youth Focus.
“When I came into the leadership group at the Wildcats, Beau became my mentor. I sat down with the sports psychologist and we were thinking about suitable people to help me out,” he said.
“I’d always admired the way Beau plays the game. Hard and tough. With all due respect to Beau he’s not the most skillful out there on the field and I guess I saw some similarities in that with my game.”
“It’s been brilliant and Beau has been a big help to me. I’m not the best shooter. Not the best ball handler. But whenever I compete I want to be the hardest working on and off the court. Beau has helped me with that.”
“When I first came into the Wildcats I was working two jobs. So then when I progressed to a full-time contract I was looking to do more on the community side of things and through talking to Beau I decided this was a cause I really believed in and wanted to be a part of.”
Hire has sought counsel himself through his own basketball journey. Wildcats and 36ers legend Martin Cattalini was a key confidant as he tried to find his feet in the NBL.
“I had a lot of self-doubt in my first year. I was getting dropped and there were games when I wasn’t required to suit up. Rob Beveridge suggested I have a chat to Cat,” he said.
“So we had a coffee and he gave me a really good insight into how to deal with it. One thing he said was that I might not be doing anything wrong and still get subbed out. But if you’re not doing anything right then there’s no reason to stay on.”
“I’ve thought of that a lot. So I try and make sure I am contributing. Back myself so the coach has a reason to keep me on.”
Perhaps the biggest gamble is yet to come. He’ll marry his long-time girlfriend Ainsleigh Sanders in May – and the couple has handed the Celebrant duties to Wildcats teammate Damien Martin.
“It used to be a bit of a running joke. Damo would be saying ‘I’ll be your Celebrant’. So then when I proposed, Ainsleigh said to me ‘so what do you think? We should get Damo to do it’,” he said.
“We’re fairly quirky people and Damo being Damo agreed to do it. It’s not common but I can’t think of a better person to have marry us. He’s one of my best mates and it’s a special occasion.”
“I love the column he writes for the NBL website. The problem is I never know what’s coming next. So I would say he is definitely going to be making some stuff up when he is saying his lines.”
Celebrant duties require qualifications though and Damian has been taking his responsibility seriously.
“We usually room together when we’re on the road and Damo has the laptop with him doing assignments. I am doing my MBA and I love that sort of thing so there was one assignment where he had to write a business plan. I pretty much wrote that one for him and that was the best marks he has go so far.”
“He’s got one more to go. He has to do a video rehearsal of a wedding so we have decided our dogs are getting married for that one.”
It will be an all Wildcats altar. Martin and Hire front and centre. Former Perth players Cameron Tovey and Brad Robbins are the groomsmen. And if all goes to plan for the rampaging Wildcats through April, the congregation could still be very much in celebration mode.
“All the boys will be there. So yeah if we can finally win that Championship the party could still be going on.”
That would be a story worth remembering.