Trent Hentschel ahead of the 2005 Semi Final. Picture: Heather/Flickr

Trent Hentschel ahead of the 2005 Semi Final. Picture: Heather/Flickr

In part one of our interview with Trent Hentschel, we talk about the start of his AFL career, including his eight-goal haul against Essendon.

Round 10, 2006 was a momentous night in the history of the Adelaide Football Club.

The Crows piled on their biggest ever score to celebrate the 250th game of the legendary Andrew McLeod in a 138-point win over Essendon.

On a night filled with brilliance for the home side, one man stood out from the rest as 193 centimetre talented key forward Trent Hentschel broke out with a stellar eight-goal performance.

With injuries curtailing his career from this night onwards, Crows fans often look back at this game and think what could have been as Hentschel showed himself to be one of the game’s most exciting forwards when in full flight.

Speaking with The Inner Sanctum the now retired 71-game former Crow looks back modestly on the night.

“I was just the one on that day who managed to get on the end of others good work up the ground,” he said.

“That was the great thing about playing in the forward line at that time, nobody cared who kicked the goals it was all about helping each other succeed.”

“I was just the lucky one to get on the end of a few that night, and to do it on such a big occasion [Andrew McLeod’s 250th] it was very special.

The story of how he got to this peak in 2006 is truly remarkable and one that should inspire AFL hopefuls across the country.

Hailing from the Northern Territory, Hentschel began his football career in Darwin and quickly garnered attention from scouts across the country due to his incredible athleticism and skills as a key forward.

He says growing up in Darwin was a period of his life he holds incredibly dear and helped immensely in his development as both a footballer and a person.

“I tell people this often, that I would not have wanted to grow up anywhere else, it was a great lifestyle growing up there and having heaps of fun,” he said.

“I feel really lucky to have the opportunity [to grow up in Darwin] and it will always be home.”

Following an accomplished junior career, Hentschel would continue to follow his dream and move down to Adelaide at just 18 years of age to join SANFL club Woodville West Torrens in 2001.

“The thought was that if I came down and started playing in a higher quality competition such as the SANFL, it would only enhance my chances of getting drafted,” he said.

“I managed to work my way up through the reserves during that season and make my senior debut, putting me in good stead heading towards the draft.”

Nominating for the national draft in 2001, Hentschel went into the night as an outside chance of being selected with the key forward being relatively unknown among recruiters.

“I wasn’t super confident I’d get taken and I certainly got no assurances or anything that I would be picked,” he said.

“I was hopeful, but it wasn’t a huge surprise I didn’t get selected and I was definitely disappointed.”

Despite his initial disappointment, Hentschel would immediately receive a second opportunity as then Adelaide talent manager James Fantasia invited him to train with the club with the potential of being selected by the Crows as a rookie.

“There were 10 of us training and only four rookie spots available, so it was definitely an audition to prove what you had,” he said.

“The step up from training and playing in Darwin and at the Eagles was massive, but it was a great group of guys to train with everybody [at the club] being so accommodating.”

Hentschel would impress through this two-week audition with the Crows, resulting in the club taking a chance on the promising key forward and selecting him with the fifth pick in the rookie draft.

He looks back at the early challenges he faced trying to adapt to the increased standards of AFL football and how the club helped immensely with his early development.

“Being away from home was challenging, leaving behind my family and friends [had a big effect on me],” he said.

“Physically it [pre-season training] was tenfold above anything I’d done before, the whole way I couldn’t have asked for more from the staff, coaches and players at the club who made me feel comfortable from day one.”

“They [the club] made it fun despite the obvious challenges [associated with pre-season].”

His first year in the AFL system would be spent nursing a horrific broken leg, time by which he spent developing his body and learning the craft associated in being a productive key forward at AFL level.

Hentschel would eventually force his way into the Adelaide team in the back end of 2003, with his debut turning into every young player’s worst nightmare.

“It was a horrendous debut up in Sydney,” he said.

“On the record it says I had one handball but I honestly can’t remember having one, so I became one of those guys that didn’t get a stat in my first game.”

“I managed to play three games that year and even though I got dropped after each one, it gave me a taste of AFL footy which set me up well for the next year.”

Having furthered his development in the 2004 season, the introduction of Neil Craig as senior coach in 2005 saw the team rise from the bottom four to minor premiers, with the production of Hentschel and their forward line a key factor.

“Although we didn’t get the ultimate success, we had a great side throughout that 2005/2006 and to consistently be a part of that was great.”

“We had a fairly underrated forward line, Roo [Mark Ricciuto] at the end of his career, Brett Burton, Ken McGregor and Scott Welsh were all up there at that time and we built some great chemistry over that time.”

“Although we didn’t have any huge stars [in our forward line], we all played our role, enjoyed each other’s company and had a team first mentality which made it great to play up there.”

With his game in a great place heading towards the 2006 finals, one infamous Showdown would change his life forever.

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