Toby Greene is our new AFL villain and all is well for now

Ken Sakata Columnist

By Ken Sakata, Ken Sakata is a Roar Expert

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    Turns out Toby Greene is evil. I’m pretty sure about that.

    I’ve seen him punch a small man in slow-motion 25 times. And that’s just scrolling through my phone over breakfast.

    Greene’s latest offence, a roundhouse to the face, was a dirty punch crudely disguised as a spoil. Vision of the Bulldogs’ cherubic Caleb Daniel lying face-down in the grass featured on news programs, post-game panels and social media.

    Greene couldn’t have chosen a more vulnerable player to strike. Caleb Daniel is 168cm and on cultural exchange from Auskick. And thus, Toby Greene has secured his role as the AFL’s villain du jour. It’s handy timing, because we need one.

    The AFL is a monster of a reality show. It supports a host of ancillary media – talkshows, podcasts, websites. And all semi-narrative entertainments have needs for storylines, heroes, villains and characters in-between.

    Not to say Greene isn’t complicit in his villainy. Toby Greene is a thug-artist. It was the third incident in as many weeks: a fine for striking against Port, a headbutt in Sydney, now this.

    Greene is building a delinquent’s CV with intensity and range. Last year Greene was fined for spitting at Richmond’s Anthony Miles- a highlight/lowlight, depending on what you get from football.

    AFL media enthusiastically claims Greene as a villain not just because he is a disreputable idiot, but also because the landscape needs to correct an imbalance of heroes and villains. We have crowned too many good blokes, and it’s getting untenable.

    Thanks to club and personal media teams savvy to positive spin, players are positioned to seemingly all be great blokes and great leaders. There is no person as positive or aspirational as the Lite n’ Easy version of Luke Hodge. I suspect the real Luke Hodge – darkly competitive, occasionally law-breaking Hodge, is (a) far more interesting and (b) far less effective at selling frozen meals.

    It’s a reductive way to think about things, well, people. Bob Murphy is probably no saint. Brendon Goddard probably has a sense of humour. Mitch Robinson can probably read. But nuance is difficult in a league that trades in simple, recognisable characters. I trade in it as well. My world is certainly a funner place if I can pretend Tom Bugg is a dark genius consumed by the misery of others.

    Greene cannot argue or spin. Last season, he attempted to explain that he didn’t mean to spit at Miles, a former teammate. Unfortunately, the ‘accidental spit’ defence doesn’t work if it comes right after you give Miles a forceful shove. And now we have our villain.

    Toby Greene GWS Giants Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL 2016

    It comes in a time of need. Villain stocks are running low. A desperate push for a negative story last month told us how reprehensible it was for Jesse Hogan to be smoking while recovering from injury. In a sign of the times, fellow player Scott Pendlebury was compelled to comment, calling it “staggering” on a Collingwood media podcast.

    A tenuous story to start with, the miscalculation got worse. It was later revealed that Hogan was dealing with his father’s terminal illness. It’s not just heroes and villains, it’s all over.

    This week, the media forced a half-baked and unformed ‘Nat Fyfe to St Kilda’ storyline not because of its veracity; but because the AFL is due for a mid-season trade story. Scholars of AFL media will recall prior incarnations: Dangerfield to Geelong, Franklin to GWS, Cloke to Carlton etc.

    The AFL machine is about sport in the same way My Kitchen Rules is about cooking. There will always be the same storylines, season after season. There’s always going to be a bitchy contestant who isn’t happy with the texture of your flan. Or whatever.

    It is easy to find the ratbag in Toby Greene. But the enduring challenge for those who accept it, is to find the relateable.

    Ken Sakata
    Ken Sakata

    Ken Sakata is a sportswriter based in Melbourne, covering where sport and pop-culture collide with a keen interest in AFL. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @sakatarama

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    The Crowd Says (46)

    • May 2nd 2017 @ 7:34am
      I ate pies said | May 2nd 2017 @ 7:34am | ! Report

      Toby was the villain before this weekend. I think it’s the way he walks around with this chin up; it’s just the way he holds himself but to people who don’t know him it screams arrogance. He clearly can’t control his temper so he’s going to be targeted, so he needs to find a way to control himself. He’s very lucky he plays footy in the AFL because he would have been belted by now in any lower league.

    • Roar Pro

      May 2nd 2017 @ 7:37am
      Ned Balme said | May 2nd 2017 @ 7:37am | ! Report

      When youngens ask us what Stephen Milne was like, we need only point at Toby Greene.

      What a time to be alive.

      • May 2nd 2017 @ 8:45am
        me too said | May 2nd 2017 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        Turn it up. Have a read of Milne’s disciplinary record. But a perfect example of what the author is on about – fans need a villian. A cheeky and champion small forward is an easy pick. No one likes getting slaughtered by the little guys.

        • Roar Pro

          May 2nd 2017 @ 8:50am
          Ned Balme said | May 2nd 2017 @ 8:50am | ! Report

          Not from a games missed standpoint obviously, Greene is already well ahead in that respect and most definitely will be by the time he calls it a career.

          Exactly what you said, a cheeky instigator who’s too talented too brush off as a pest.

    • May 2nd 2017 @ 8:22am
      Pumping Dougie said | May 2nd 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      Not sure how you can include Hodge in this article as a person with a ‘good guy’ reputation – he nearly paralysed Chad Wingard with a cheap shot and has a long history of playing the man who is playing the ball.

      I haven’t seen much of Toby Greene but there is nothing admirable about whacking a bloke in the head with your fist – a la Luke Hodge / Jordan Lewis style – who is playing the ball and has no reason to expect the assault. His actions are a cheap shot and spank of being a dirty sniper,

      But looking at how many GWS players conducted themselves in the finals last year, I don’t think Toby Greene is on his Pat Malone. It’s a cultural behavior at that club.

      • Roar Pro

        May 2nd 2017 @ 8:46am
        Ned Balme said | May 2nd 2017 @ 8:46am | ! Report

        I think GWS saw the listlessness of the Gold Coast in their first season and made it a cultural priority to at the very least have some mongrel about them.

        Always had a cocky, youthful arrogance that sometimes carried over into physical occurrences, the only difference now is that they’re significantly better players and as a result it matters more when they miss games due to suspension.

        I don’t hate it, truthfully.

      • May 2nd 2017 @ 9:37am
        Brian said | May 2nd 2017 @ 9:37am | ! Report

        Yes cause eye gouging is the more “admirable” Bullodgs style.

        • May 2nd 2017 @ 11:11am
          Another Paul said | May 2nd 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Haha What?! Which Bulldog has been eye gouging?

          • May 2nd 2017 @ 2:02pm
            bilo said | May 2nd 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

            Canterbury maybe?

          • May 2nd 2017 @ 3:32pm
            Brian said | May 2nd 2017 @ 3:32pm | ! Report

            Libba

            • May 2nd 2017 @ 4:17pm
              Another Paul said | May 2nd 2017 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

              Tony? that was more then a decade ago the culture is so far removed that it’s amazing you feel the need to bring it up and the man himself came out and said he was ashamed of it.

              GWS right now have a huge problem. They just stated in the media that they weren’t expecting an apology from Toby and that they would support him through this “tough” time. What a load of BS, he isn’t a victim he did something that has consequences. As far as I’m concerned GWS ought to sanction him too, they did warn him before hand after all, you don’t give some one a directive and then when they break it just say oh well, better luck next time. I hope they as a team throw this whole season away with some indiscretion like this during finals.

            • May 2nd 2017 @ 6:18pm
              Pumping Dougie said | May 2nd 2017 @ 6:18pm | ! Report

              Haha actually that was two decades ago and doesn’t reflect the behaviors of this current bulldog crop. Libber Senior was a dirty sniping thug and the game is much better without him. I’m glad he is no longer playing with our club. But I love the way his brilliant son goes about it!

      • Roar Guru

        May 2nd 2017 @ 9:41am
        Paul D said | May 2nd 2017 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        Good observation about GWS during the finals last year – they were very aggressive, obnoxiously so during that campaign.

        Hodge’s premierships wrap him in a cloak of legitimacy, but he’s right down there with a guy like Matthew Lloyd for how he plays the game

        • May 2nd 2017 @ 6:29pm
          Pumping Dougie said | May 2nd 2017 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

          I don’t share the anti-sentiment towards Matty Lloyd. I know he cleaned-up Sewell and caused some damage, but the incident was an old-fashioned shirtfront. Lloyd even attempted to get down low and used his shoulder, not a fist. It was reckless and dirty and he deserved his suspension, but Dermie did that kind of thing every week. Byron Pickett was far worse, because he never even bothered going for the ball. Lloyd’s actions were poor, but he was playing against a team that had a recent history of being absolute dirty thugs (e.g. Campbell Brown king-hitting Winderlich who was in the hands of the trainers), so I don’t blame him. The Hawks have no right to complain about the Lloyd incident. Against every other side he was a’ball player’. I regard him overall as a fair champion.

          • May 3rd 2017 @ 12:27am
            Don Freo said | May 3rd 2017 @ 12:27am | ! Report

            After the way Sewell performed on the AFL Tribunal during Mitchell and Hodge’s dirtiest years…not to mention his woeful ABC commentary (he can barely string a sentence together)…I support the pro-Lloyd comments.

            I have always thought of Lloyd as a bit soft with a slight handbag slap. Bloody good player, though.

      • May 2nd 2017 @ 11:11am
        Craig Delaney said | May 2nd 2017 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        It’s a culture Cameron should want to change because it’s a liability in big games. A Shaw eruption could cost a vital goal to the opposition. A Greene one could lose one for them. Mumford can get pinged a couple of times at centre clearances. A chain of events that could foreseeably lose a final. Even one of them could be the difference.

        • Roar Guru

          May 2nd 2017 @ 11:15am
          Paul D said | May 2nd 2017 @ 11:15am | ! Report

          Agreed – and on the subject of big games, Stevie J was suspended for the prelim last year for a high bump in the qualifying final

          • May 2nd 2017 @ 3:43pm
            Mark said | May 2nd 2017 @ 3:43pm | ! Report

            Quite possibly cost them a grand final place, especially when you consider he was replaced by Rhys Palmer.

        • May 2nd 2017 @ 12:53pm
          Gecko said | May 2nd 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

          Good points from Craig and PaulD. It’s easy to envisage someone like Stevey J, Toby Greene or Mumford getting suspended and costing GWS dearly again in the 2017 finals.

          Interesting that even though Stevey J was playing for an expansion club last year, the tribunal didn’t extend him the same leniency they gave Barry Hall a few years back when they allowed Hall to play finals after he delivered a king hit 70m from the play.

          Oh and Ken, thanks for the entertaining article. It is indeed great for the footy market to have Toby Greene consolidate his spot in the pantheon of villains.

    • May 2nd 2017 @ 9:27am
      Geoff Schaefer said | May 2nd 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Good article Ken. Like Brereton, he’s a grub and takes the cheap shot when he can. Love watching both of them play though…

      • May 2nd 2017 @ 12:55pm
        Gecko said | May 2nd 2017 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

        Agreed he takes cheap shots. Interesting that he acts and talks like a thug but is actually a very clever, skilled footy player. Thoroughly earned his All Australian Guernsey last year.

    • Roar Guru

      May 2nd 2017 @ 9:31am
      Epiquin said | May 2nd 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

      Part of his villain status has to be that he plays for GWS – the villain club.

      GWS are the like Manly in the NSWRL during the 70s and 80s – cashed up and building glory on the back of imports. They’re given a leg up by the AFL and look likely to bring a premiership to a town where their fans barely outnumber the away team’s.

      • May 2nd 2017 @ 8:12pm
        Joe B said | May 2nd 2017 @ 8:12pm | ! Report

        I think to b promoted as a villain it helps to play in a successful non-vic club because the AFL media runs mostly out of Melbourne and would be too scared to tread on any toes locally.
        Ballantyne and Crowley were big villains during Freo’s better seasons, Goodes from Swans, now Greene from GWS. Karl Langdon from WCE in the 90s was also a big villain in Vic. Milne, from Saints, was a big Vic villain…. just remembered Wayne Carey, was he a villain? He was definitely a ….

    • Editor

      May 2nd 2017 @ 9:45am
      Josh Elliott said | May 2nd 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

      It’s about damned time we had AFL/D&D memes. Couldn’t agree more with the placings but I feel like Marley Williams belongs somewhere on the board.

      • Roar Guru

        May 2nd 2017 @ 3:39pm
        Paul D said | May 2nd 2017 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

        Locked up in the dungeon most likely

        Probably a spare NPC that could be converted into a PC if someone’s character dies

        “You look trustworthy friend. Care to join us in our quest for a premiership? Here’s a one year minimum contract.”

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