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'If Greene's suspended we riot' or 'three weeks minimum': AFL split over Toby ban

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29th August, 2021
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GWS star Toby Greene’s fate over his contact with AFL umpire Matt Stevic has split AFL experts, as the Giants face the prospect of playing a semi-final against Geelong without their match-winner.

Greene, the competition’s most fined player, brushed off the incident after the match, but faces a tense wait to see if match review officer Michael Christian refers the matter to the AFL Tribunal. The incident took some gloss off the Giants’ extraordinary one-point win over Sydney Swans on Saturday afternoon.

Stevic wasn’t knocked off course but looked far from pleased as Greene came in close to protest a decision at three-quarter time.

The League generally takes a dim view of players making any form of contact with a whistleblower, with a spate of incidents in 2018 resulting in a tightening of rules.

Greene was assessed for touching umpire Jacob Mollison earlier in the season, but that was deemed to “not constitute a reportable offence”.

“I don’t know what it was. It was just in the moment and certainly would never touch him,” Greene told Seven regarding his confrontation with Stevic.

“I was just talking to him about something in the game.”

“Clearly it’s a talking point but all I know is it wouldn’t have been intentional,” Greene’s coach Leon Cameron said.

Jesse Hogan also offered a character defence of Greene.

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“It’ll obviously be on every footy show under the sun for the next five days. I haven’t actually seen it,” Hogan said.

“I’m sure, knowing Toby, there’s nothing in it. It’s not really the type of person he is.”

Hogan was right – the footy shows have fired up over the incident, with varying and extreme points of view from players and pundits.

Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury wrote on Twitter that there was an “incoming Toby tax”. He claimed Greene’s contact with Stevic wasn’t as aggressive as Lion Lachie Neale’s run-in with an umpire in April, which saw him slapped with a a $1500 fine.

Former Magpie Dane Swan was equally strong in his belief that Greene should escape punishment.

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But speaking on Fox Footy’s First Crack, Bulldogs legend Brad Johnson said Greene should be out for “probably three or four weeks as a minimum”.

“Don’t touch the umpires. Full stop!” Johnson said.

“Seriously, I’ve known for 45 years, you do not touch the umpires. Regardless of how frustrated you are, how angry you are, a decision doesn’t go your way, whatever it is you don’t touch them. End of story.

“He could’ve had a verbal and copped a fine, and no one worries about it. You don’t abuse the umpire, he did it anyway, we move on. But he touched the umpire; you just don’t go there.”

Nick Dal Santo agreed that a long punishment was appropriate.

“This is what I really get annoyed about; this is not about setting an example and a precedent for the lower levels,” Dal Santo told First Crack.

“You know you can’t do it. Those people that touch the umpire are doing it anyway, whether Toby Greene gets 10 (weeks) or gets a fine.

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“We already know the rules, you’ve learned it since you’re five years old, you do not do that to an umpire.”

Fox Footy’s Nick Riewoldt said the umpires perspective on the incident could be the deciding factor in Greene’s fate.

“Is it a shoulder bump? Is it a hand brush? It’s hard to hang him on that piece of vision, (but) I know it looks bad,” Riewoldt said.

“I think they’ll need another angle, and I think Matt Stevic will play a massive role in this.

“If you actually follow it through and see the context of the conversation and how it unfolds; they’re having a pretty amicable chat. Matt Stevic doesn’t look to be too disturbed afterwards.”

Commentator David King said Greene was in “a lot of trouble”.

“I don’t think there is any way of talking around this. The umpires are a no-go zone and when you decide to walk into their path … I think he made a calculated decision, he’s made a big error,” King said.

“Unfortunately, I think he’ll miss several weeks – that’s just how it sits for me. I’m not sure how you argue your way around that one.

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“He knows he’s there, he walks into him, you just can’t do that. We all love him and we all want him to play, but whenever these things happen, more often than not, it’s got Toby involved.

“I feel for the Giants. Coming down from the euphoria of this win will be the reality that Toby’s made a blue.”

Richmond forward Jack Riewoldt added: “He’s really got no one else to blame bar himself.

“He’s an emotional player and we love that about him, because it actually makes him the star he is, and why he stars in games, but this is going to be scrutinised within an inch of its life and it doesn’t look great early on.

“It’s something that’s ingrained in children, in not only the AFL, but all sports across the world, that umpires are sacrosanct.”

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