The GWS Giants will be without one of their most talismanic players for their preliminary final against the Collingwood Magpies on Saturday night, after the AFL Tribunal decided to uphold a one-match ban for Toby Greene.
Greene was charged two days ago with having made ‘unreasonable or unnecessary contact to the eye region’ on Lachie Neale during the Giants’ semi-final victory over the Brisbane Lions.
The incident was assessed as being intentional high contact with a low-impact, and Greene was offered a one-match ban for the offence.
This came after a similar incident in the Giants’ previous match, where Greene was sent to the tribunal for ‘serious misconduct’ on Marcus Bontempelli.
Greene’s punishment for that incident amounted to a sizable financial penalty, but the AFL’s counsel did not request the Tribunal to suspend him.
Greene plead not guilty to the charge of making contact to Neale’s eye, and his defence also put forward that if contact had been made, it should be considered careless, rather than intentional.
Lachie Neale was called for evidence, despite the AFL’s representative Nick Pane attempting to block this. Neale said that he did feel contact to his nose, but not his eye.
When called to give evidence, Greene said he had jumped on Neale in the hopes the umpire would pay a holding the ball free kick.
Greene said that he saw the ball ‘bobble’ and moved his hand towards the ball, but couldn’t reach it, and so drew his hand back.
Greene said the ball was locked directly underneath Neale’s face, but that he did not recall making contact with Neale’s face, and did not rake his face or his eye region.
“I’m trying to grab the ball and I see it bobbling, but then it goes under Lachie Neale’s face,” said Greene.
When suggested to him that his arm could not be seen to extend for the football, Greene said “I think it does… and I think I actually hit Josh Kelly’s face on the way down.”
Pane argued that it was possible to see a rake up over Neale’s eyes, and an immediate reaction from Neale when this occurred.
“Any contact to the eye region, no matter how slight, is inherently dangerous… it is unreasonable and unnecessary,” said Pane.
Pane further said that Lachie Neale’s evidence was “vague”, and little weight should be given to it by the members of the tribunal.
Greene’s representative Adrian Anderson said there was insufficient evidence to suggest contact to the eyes, and that if contact had been made, it was careless, not intentional.
“Even if you were satisfied that there was a little bit of contact, it would have been negligible,” says Anderson.
The Tribunal returned a guilty verdict after 16 minutes of deliberation.
The Giants will have the option of appealing the decision, should they wish to do so.