Tennis star Sam Groth has aced his AFL idols at the Sydney Swans, but smashed suggestions he could have been an elite-level Australian rules player. .
A Swans supporter since the age of five and an ambassador for the AFL club, 28-year-old Groth mixed with Sydney players on Friday.
He had a spell of kick-to-kick with co-captain and midfielder Kieren Jack and a few shots at goal at Lakeside Oval.
The action moved to tennis courts nearby, where Groth hit with Jack and two other Swans, midfielder Josh Kennedy and forward Dane Towers.
Renowned for his thunderous serving, Groth didn’t unleash any of his full power deliveries at the Swans, but still earned their respect.
Asked what it was like to face Groth’s monster delivery, Jack chuckled and said “pretty scary, it was a great experience.”
Raised in the NSW country town of Narrandera, Groth remains a dedicated Swans fan despite residing in the sport’s heartland of Melbourne.
“I used to go down to the games with Tony Lockett’s uncle and sit with his mum and head into the rooms after,” Groth recalled.
“I remember making the grand final in 1996 and being so shattered that they lost and ever since then I’ve been a huge supporter.”
The 2015 Newcombe Medallist was a promising junior Australian rules player before settling on tennis as his preferred sport.
“I made a few rep teams down in country, I was down in some of the Murray Bushrangers lead-up squads when I was 15 and I gave that away and started pursuing tennis,” Groth said.
“Tennis is a one sport thing; you can’t really half do it. So I pretty much had to give up everything else.”
For one year in 2011, though, Groth returned to footy, playing with Melbourne suburban club Vermont Eagles.
Asked which position he played, the 193 centimetre Groth quipped, “full forward, somewhere I didn’t have to move too much.
“I played 13 games and had a few beers with my mates and lived a bit of a normal life for a year.”
He opted to go back to tennis rather than try and and advance his football.
“Maybe at some stage in my head I thought there may have been a chance that I wanted to do it, but I don’t know how realistic that was,” Groth said.
He enjoyed a breakthrough year on the court in 2015.
Groth raised his ranking to a career-high 53, played in the Davis Cup team which made the semi-finals and reached the third round of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.