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Integrity starts with the clubs

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christy olsen new author
Roar Rookie
20th September, 2019
17

If you’re like me, you are sick of watching Toby Greene’s nonsense nearly every time he takes the field.

If he’s not going into a marking contest with his cleats up, he’s grabbing someone’s hair or slamming a player’s head into the ground.

And that is on top of the routine sneakiness that is just built in to his game.

The truth is he’s a weasel, and everyone knows it. For all the great, fair plays he’s executed over the years, the only thing he will be remembered for is his dirtiness.

Every time a new incident arises, there is a lot of discussion around what the MRO or the Tribunal should do about it.

Are fines enough? Does he deserve a ban? Was it intentional? Did he really hurt anyone? Was the end result really that bad? On an on it goes, while the root cause of the problem persists: the nasty player.

We hold the AFL responsible for the behaviour of the players, and expect them to fix everything through post facto punishments.

It is as if the only thing that matters is whether a player gets caught and whether the AFL punishes him. Sure, whatever he did was bad, but after his penalty is paid, it’s business as usual.

Toby Greene

Should Toby Greene have copped more? (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

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We don’t place any expectations a player to be accountable to his club or his peers.

Thinking back to last year, pretend the AFL had decided to give Andrew Gaff a one-game suspension, instead of eight.

The entire footy world would have been incensed over the leniency of the punishment, with all the rage directed at the Tribunal, not the club.

Can anyone imagine West Coast adding, say, five or six extra weeks to that ban? No. In fact, it is unthinkable.

We have built a culture that says, “I would be disgusted by such behaviour from an opposition player or anyone in my family, but if the perpetrator is someone at our club, I hope he gets off easy.” That is sad.

It seems we are missing the bigger picture here. Myopic scrutiny of the particulars of the moment has caused us to forget what is really at stake.

It is not a question of whether the laws of the game were broken. It is not a matter of which team gets over the line, or takes home the flag.

The real issue is the behaviour of the players, and ultimately the culture of the game. I would not be proud of my son if he grabbed another player’s hair, stomped on his foot, whacked him in the throat, or punched him in the gut.

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I don’t want to watch a sport that allows that sort of thing, and I do not want to be a member of a club that tolerates it. “Best and Fairest” rings pretty hollow when bestowed upon men who are not role models.

The culture of Aussie Rules can be changed, but it needs to flow from the clubs. I remember a certain Saints player last year who started to catch heat for his staging.

The vision wasn’t flattering. I kept hoping St. Kilda would delist him. When they re-signed him, I was leery.

However, in a pleasant and surprising turnaround, his demeanour on the field was far better this year. I have to think the coach and leadership group at Moorabbin took him aside and set him straight.

It can and needs to be this way at every club. What if the leadership group at the Eagles had taken charge of the situation, declared Gaff’s actions unacceptable, and punished him from within?

What if GWS last week (or a long time ago) had decided Greene is not going to play until he can get his act together? What an entirely different culture that would create!

When clubs make integrity and admirable behaviour just as important has winning, we will see real change. It may be costly, if computed only in wins or flags.

But the profit to the culture of footy, and the long-term health of the game, will be incalculable.

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