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If Toby Greene hasn’t learnt his lesson by now, next time there should be no half-measures. His so-called kung-fu kick is a dangerous abomination which has no place in football.
If he doesn’t get it, and if his club is too self-interested or weak – or both – to pull him into line, those who manage the game must do it for them.
Of course, it should never have got to this point. It speaks volumes for the mismanagement of the issue so far that the only person to be burnt by it this week is umpire Dean Margetts.
Greene has had the finger pointed at him for nothing more serious than committing a breach worthy of a free kick. Forty or so of those are awarded in every game. It’s hardly a stinging accusation to be identified as someone who gave one away.
Margetts, though, has been buried – and not without cause, it should be said – for failing to respond to the moment when Greene put his boot into the midriff of Sydney’s Nic Newman. I wonder if he’ll get another final in the current series.
The implied public criticism of the umpire is, of course, a strategy to seek to ensure there is no repeat from Greene on Saturday at the MCG. The brilliant, but cocksure, young Giant was roundly booed for his actions last weekend at the SCG. If he were to try it on again before 90,000 Collingwood fans, it’s conceivable things could get nasty.
There’s a fair chance he’ll cop it from fans anyway.
Having been put on notice that he’ll concede a free kick if he repeats this provocative action, it’s considered unlikely Greene would do it again. Keep reading for further consideration of that. Anyway, those words should have been printable 13 months ago.
For Greene’s boot in the mouth of the Western Bulldogs’ Luke Dahlhaus in Round 21 last year was the result of an even more dangerous action than those of last weekend. Red lights should immediately have been flashing everywhere. Not least in Toby Greene’s head. His dangerous method had caused a laceration which could have been worse. A healthy suspension should’ve been meted out.
And what did the AFL’s Match Review Panel deliver?
A finding of ‘Misconduct’; an offence worthy only of a fine, and Greene was rendered $1500 worse off. Never has an AFL judicial body failed so spectacularly. Never has a footballer been so heftily whacked with a feather. Never has the failure of the AFL’s justice system been so exposed by subsequent events.
And don’t forget, the AFL has the right of appeal regarding outcomes it considers inadequate. To their shame, the custodians of the game sat on their hands in this case.
Is one to imagine they simply didn’t understand the threat Greene’s action posed for the game, and those who play it at every level? Or might there have been other factors at play? Such as that only two rounds of matches remained before the finals. And the AFL likes all the big stars playing in the finals. And GWS were a premiership contender.
The above is a tell-tale backdrop to how last Saturday’s succession of similar actions came about. The game’s administration effectively gave Greene’s assault on Dahlhaus the tick of approval. Or, more correctly, the merest frown of disapproval.
And last weekend, in a sudden-death final, Greene mocked the AFL’s weakness.
He also mocked his own club’s weakness. The day after that game against the Bulldogs, Giants co-captain Phil Davis was interviewed on 3AW in Melbourne. When I put to him that it was hard to justify an action such as Greene’s, he took umbrage and leapt to the defence of his teammate. Last Saturday night, the response of Leon Cameron, the club’s coach, to the same sort of questioning wasn’t dissimilar.
Club leaders, of course, have their players’ backs in times of trouble, so there was no surprise in these responses. But don’t they also have a responsibility to read the tea leaves and deliver good counsel where it’s required?
Bearing in mind that 13 months passed between the two occasions on which Greene unleashed his kung-fu action, the Giants had ample time to sort this out. It was a serious football issue. They should have discussed the matter both with the AFL and their player.
Yet, based on what has happened, one presumes none of this was done. Thus, both the game and those who play it were failed. Not just by the central administration, but also by Toby Greene’s club.
Football has to be better than this.
Finally, here’s an interesting post-script to ponder. As I considered the entirety of the issue before writing this article, I reviewed the Greene/Dahlhaus incident from last year. I wanted to refresh my memory as to how it had been treated on-field, in the moment.
In case you haven’t gone back for a look, I can tell you the whistle was immediately blown by the umpire and a free-kick was awarded to Dahlhaus (who was unable to take it as he was leaving the field with blood coming from his face).
Into a wide shot of the scene runs umpire number six. Dean Margetts. He paid a free kick. Interesting in more ways than one.
Whatever, it didn’t deter Greene from later repeating his action of that night.