Toby Greene has been warned by those close to him that he is jeopardising what insiders believe should eventually be Hall of Fame recognition if he continues to add a long rap sheet.
Greater Western Sydney chiefs have made their displeasure with Greene clear as the AFL prepares to on Thursday challenge the severity of Greene’s three-match suspension, which it has described as manifestly inadequate, for making intentional umpire contact to Matt Stevic in an elimination final against Sydney.
Giants officials are privately disappointed that the AFL has taken the case to its appeals board, with sources close to the club questioning whether there is an “anti Toby Greene” movement within the league.
‘Bump’ incident: Toby Greene and umpire Matt Stevic.
Sources close to the club say the penalty was fair and do not believe the AFL has the basis of a case to appeal in legal terms, arguing an independent panel had already considered all factors and found Greene guilty.
The Giants have all but read the riot act to Greene, perplexed by his continued on-field indiscretions, which have led to 22 charges, resulting in 11 weeks of suspension and fines of $29,350 through his 10-year career.
They appreciate the fervour in which he plays is a reason why he is good but acknowledge he needs to curb his “white-line fever”, declaring this latest incident had hurt the club and sport overall. They say Greene is upset with his actions, and he apologised to teammates for having to sit out what was a semi-final loss to Geelong. At this stage, he will also miss the opening two matches of next season.
Greene, who was involved in 38 per cent of the Giants’ scores last season, ranked No.1 in the AFL, is one of the league’s premier forwards. His match-winning abilities have him in line after 176 matches to eventually be inducted into the Hall of Fame but league sources have confirmed he has been bluntly reminded by club officials that he risks being overlooked for this in retirement – regardless of what he does for the rest of his career – unless he stops offending. Greene, 28, has acknowledged this.
He finished runner-up to Josh Kelly in last week’s best and fairest count, his two suspensions – he was also given one week for elbowing Patrick Dangerfield – almost certainly costing him the top honour in a season when he booted a team-high 45 goals in 18 matches. He was a best and fairest and All-Australian in 2016.
The Giants are hopeful the Stevic incident will be the last of Greene’s career, and admit it could have an impact in any captaincy discussions should Stephen Coniglio relinquish the role next season, an issue that will be addressed as the summer unfolds. Greene had filled in for an injured Coniglio through the season.
The AFL was concerned what statement it sent to community sport should it not have appealed what it feels is a lenient suspension.
At last month’s hearing before the three-man panel of Shane Wakelin, Stephen Jurica and Richard Loveridge, AFL counsel Jeff Gleeson QC argued Greene could have completely avoided contact with Stevic and had proposed a suspension of no less than six matches. AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan soon flagged an appeal.
“I guess I welcome the tribunal verdict that it was intentional conduct. If I’m honest, I find it personally hard to reconcile how it can be intentional conduct that was aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful … and then only be three weeks,” McLachlan said at the time.
“We asked for six, these are the facts. I’m finding that personally hard to reconcile how it can be only three weeks. As the CEO of the league, I’m saying to community leagues and others that I find that decision perplexing.”
The AFL’s legal counsel and then interim football operations manager Andrew Dillon lodged the appeal – deferred until after the season- on the basis the sanction imposed was manifestly inadequate.
Stevic and Greene are unlikely to be at the appeal, for Giants football boss Jason McCartney says it predominantly is an argument now between the legal teams of Greene and the AFL.
Greene will again be represented by Ben Ihle QC, who had proposed a $20,000 to $25,000 fine in the initial hearing.
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