Does the MRP have a backbone? We’re about to find out

Stirling Coates Roar Guru

By Stirling Coates, Stirling Coates is a Roar Guru

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    The report of Toby Greene in Friday night’s Bulldogs-Giants clash is a perfect opportunity for the AFL’s maligned Match Review Panel to prove it has one of two things many believe it lacks – common sense, or a spine.

    Early in the third quarter of Greater Western Sydney’s blowout of the Dogs, oft-suspended Greene got his name taken by the umpires yet again on a rough conduct charge against Luke Dahlhaus.

    Greene lead up the ball to take a handball receive and, in the process, his right foot stuck out – striking in the oncoming Dahlhaus squarely in the jaw.

    Bulldogs players and fans in the vicinity were immediately incensed.

    As Dahlhaus walked off the field with blood dripping from his mouth, his teammates remonstrated with the pesky Giant for what they believed to be a deliberate kick to the face.

    For the record, I don’t believe Greene did it on purpose at all.

    AFL players are some of the most talented athletes on Earth, but the idea that someone can intentionally run, jump, take the ball above their head, karate kick an oncoming person in the face, spin around and land on their feet seems, at best, farfetched.

    But in any case, the MRP has one of the biggest decisions it’s had to make all year.

    While many will be angered by the verdict the MRP delivers, failure to impose a substantial suspension – in the event of a guilty verdict – would be even more disheartening, regardless of whether you personally believe Greene is indeed guilty.

    This is very much the MRP equivalent of a tackle half the fans believe is high and half are calling for holding the ball – and they must not call a ball-up.

    To backtrack to my personal view, I believe Greene deserves his reputation as a pest, and in many ways only has himself to blame for this incident being blown up to the extent it has.

    To his credit, he let his football do the talking from that point forwards and, despite having numerous opportunities to stick it the home fans throughout the game, was humble in his celebrations all evening.

    Toby Greene GWS Giants Greater Western Sydney Giants AFL 2016

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    As is more commonly mused during score reviews, you can trick yourself to believing almost anything with slow-motion replays. Admittedly, the slowmo of this particular incident does look quite damning.

    But slow motion has a habit of making a lot of indiscretions appear more malicious than they are – particularly high bumps and late spoils.

    Players can only think and act in real time, and when looking at the incident in real time, there doesn’t appear to be a lot in it.

    If a Bulldogs player had been the one taking the ball – perhaps even a lesser-known Giant – we’d be seeing this incident on the blooper reel instead.

    As such, this presents itself as a golden opportunity for the MRP that suspended Jack Ziebell for going too hard at the ball and cited Drew Petrie for clawing at the face of man choking him that they are capable of not overanalysing a situation.

    This is a golden opportunity for the MRP to prove they have some semblance of common sense.

    But, if you’re in the guilty camp and believe Greene knew exactly what he was doing – you’d be seeing this as a chance for the MRP to prove they have a backbone.

    The player reported for an act resembling a kick was North Melbourne’s Lindsay Thomas, in a 2015 Elimination Final win over Richmond.

    This incident was a lot more clear cut. After Grimes wrapped up Thomas and won himself a free kick for holding the ball, the Tiger defender gave his opponent a shove while they were both on the ground to let him know.

    Thomas, on his back, responded by striking Grimes in the chest with his foot.

    A 50-metre penalty was paid, there was a bit of push and shove, but Grimes was largely unaffected.

    Unfortunately, despite the act clearly being deliberate, Thomas too was left largely unaffected by his trip to the tribunal.

    A mere $1000 fine was all the incident amounted to.

    Carelessly or intentionally kicking another person is, in almost any sport, one of the most serious infractions a player can commit.

    In lower level Aussie rules, as per law 20.2, kicking another player results in the reported player being issued a red card and being ordered to leave the field for the remainder of the match.

    There are only four other specific incidences that see a red card issued and they all relate to the physical harm, intimidation or abuse of an umpire.

    Striking is not a red card offence under the laws of the game.

    While the AFL competition itself does not use yellow or red cards, nor does it send players off, the laws of the game still clearly elevate the seriousness of this reportable offence above almost all others.

    For a player to have been issued a mere fine for such an offence is absurd, and if the MRP is seriously of the opinion that Greene intended to kick Dahlhaus, a suspension in the double digits – given his bad record – is the only acceptable sentence.

    Unfortunately, the MRP and AFL itself seem to dole out punishments designed more to assuage public outcry than address the incident itself.

    Toby Greene GWS Giants AFL 2017

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Essendon’s ASADA scandal deserved the condemnation it received, but the AFL’s decision to remove them from the 2013 finals was clearly in response to public disdain rather than a suitable punishment for an incident that didn’t even occur in the same season.

    Ultimately, it ended lending some credence to the claim the players had already been through enough when the season-long bans eventually came about.

    On other hand, uproar over Sydney’s trade manoeuvres saw them banned from the practice altogether despite them having committed no form of wrongdoing whatsoever.

    In that context, my gut feel – and I suspect this is shared – is that Greene will be charged, but offered a suspension of two or three weeks.

    An outcome that would satisfy those in the guilty camp, but also offer a penalty safe enough to not rock the boat too much.

    Despite my belief that Greene is innocent, to me this would be an even bigger travesty than a ten-week ban.

    If any player carelessly or intentionally kicks another player in the face, the MRP must come down on them with all their might.

    But whether the MRP possess the common sense to let him off, or the backbone to rub such acts out of the game for good, is something nobody can say they’re certain of.

    The Socceroos' hopes of qualifying from the group stage at the World Cup are hanging by a thread after a 1-1 draw against Denmark. See how the match unfolded with our Australia vs Denmark match report, highlights and result.

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    The Crowd Says (53)

    • August 12th 2017 @ 6:04am
      Swannie said | August 12th 2017 @ 6:04am | ! Report

      There is precedent – Luke Parker was found guilty of a similar act in 2015 (against Hawthorn – I think the foot was in the stomach not the face). He got a fine I think.

    • August 12th 2017 @ 6:53am
      I ate pies said | August 12th 2017 @ 6:53am | ! Report

      How often do you see players kick out when they take possession of the ball? That’s right, hardly ever. I cannot believe that you’re condoning kicking someone in the face. If he gets off I fully expect players to defend space with their foot, which he clearly was doing.

    • August 12th 2017 @ 7:18am
      Simoc said | August 12th 2017 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      There was no need for Greene to push out with his foot while airborne but it is not clear that he saw the Norths defender either. The fact that the umpire was closest and reported it suggests he thought it was deliberate or unnecessary, both bad for Greene. Top player though. I wouldn’t have a clue what the outcome should be.

      • August 12th 2017 @ 1:15pm
        I ate pies said | August 12th 2017 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        Of course he saw him

    • August 12th 2017 @ 7:23am
      Christo the Daddyo said | August 12th 2017 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      Did Greene deliberately try to kick Dahlhaus? I don’t believe so.
      Did Greene use an unusual marking technique that meant his leg was extended rather than bent at the knee? Yes, I think so. So I think this falls into the careless category.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 12th 2017 @ 7:31am
        BillyW said | August 12th 2017 @ 7:31am | ! Report

        Yes but also high contact and possibly medium contact as Dal had to be medically treated, resulting in games….

        • August 12th 2017 @ 1:39pm
          Christo the Daddyo said | August 12th 2017 @ 1:39pm | ! Report

          Yep, all fair points.

      • August 12th 2017 @ 7:58am
        Woz said | August 12th 2017 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Since when does receiving a handball constitute taking a mark?

      • August 12th 2017 @ 8:00am
        I ate pies said | August 12th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        Of course it was deliberate. He saw him coming and put his foot out to stop him. It’s as deliberate as you can get.

      • August 12th 2017 @ 8:55am
        Gecko said | August 12th 2017 @ 8:55am | ! Report

        I actually saw Greene use the same karate kick technique in a game 5 or 6 weeks ago and was surprised it wasn’t commented on. You can’t have blokes ‘protecting their space’ by sticking their stops in someone else’s face or chest. If it had been stopped when it was first used, Toby wouldn’t have used the technique again last night.

        • August 12th 2017 @ 9:19am
          GJ said | August 12th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

          He is not the only player to stick his foot up in that manner to protect himself. He is probably the first in recent times to have another player run into his foot.

          • August 12th 2017 @ 11:31am
            Mattyb said | August 12th 2017 @ 11:31am | ! Report

            I think this is about right GJ,there’s a few other players that do it but now this one people are going to highlight because it connected with the face
            In the GF last year JJ got kicked in the chest,grabbed the foot and got penalised for tripping. This incident is probably the AFLs own fault so they can’t really penalise if serious.
            Hawkins and Daniher use the tactic pretty regularly.
            It was pretty spectacular though,karate kick right to the face.

            • August 12th 2017 @ 1:09pm
              joe b said | August 12th 2017 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

              Agree. I have seen many players ‘protect their space’ in this manner on many occasions, and have thought it as quite a gutless act, and how could it be allowed. For this reason, I don’t see how Greene could be punished beyond a careless knock to the head… and given his history may equate to a week or two. Given that Richmond’s Cotchin got away with an intentional strike to Fremantle’s Lachie Neale, I can’t help but think the Melbourne based MRP will quite happily throw the book at a Sydney based GWS player… how is that for a Saturday morning conspiracy!

              • August 12th 2017 @ 1:30pm
                Mattyb said | August 12th 2017 @ 1:30pm | ! Report

                The MRP could consider the knock unduly rough play,sort of a catch all type charge for things like this.
                I don’t really have any idea what they’ll do but a flying kick to the face isn’t good.

              • August 13th 2017 @ 11:26pm
                J.T. Delacroix said | August 13th 2017 @ 11:26pm | ! Report

                Joe B : What utter BS!!

    • Roar Rookie

      August 12th 2017 @ 7:29am
      BillyW said | August 12th 2017 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      It wasn’t a marking contest Greene was receiving a handball…..whether that will make a difference or not is anyone’s guess!
      My preference would be a fine as I think there should be some sanction to send a message that using the boot to clear space/ protect yourself is not on/ unnecessary……my gut feel though would be 2 games, which may have been 1 had he had a clean record.

      • August 12th 2017 @ 9:50am
        Paul W said | August 12th 2017 @ 9:50am | ! Report

        Thank you, I’m sick to death of every outlet calling it a marking contest, it’s a handball receive. If he was worried about an oncoming player he should have just knocked it on.

        He knew exactly what he was doing, studs out is just not on. Should be 2 weeks plus one for being another slow learner.

    • August 12th 2017 @ 7:59am
      Larry Seely said | August 12th 2017 @ 7:59am | ! Report

      If he didn’t kick him on purpose, why was his foot out like that to begin with? You don’t see other players using a kick move when marking, its just ridiculous and with his history, especially against the Dogs, 2 weeks minimum!

      • August 12th 2017 @ 1:13pm
        joe b said | August 12th 2017 @ 1:13pm | ! Report

        you see players doing this a LOT… it is a horrible look. Unusual to see it when receiving a handball though.

        • August 12th 2017 @ 1:31pm
          Lroy said | August 12th 2017 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

          ”you see players doing this a LOT… it is a horrible look. Unusual to see it when receiving a handball though.”

          A lot of people have argued that line, ergo, happens all the time, nothing to see here, so lets all just move along.

          I am curious about all these other incidents… cos I don’t remember seeing them, could you please post a link to all these other ”sprigs in the face” that I missed.


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