The AFL and its predecessor, the VFL, have always been a rich source of exasperating characters. It would rival politics or a Fox News station.
There are some absolutely legendary irritating players that have played the game at its highest level. Some that have raised my hackles include Mark “I’m an Individual” Jackson, Jason Akermanis and Tony Liberatore.
There was the most annoying coach who developed his most annoying players. Ross Lyon crafted Steven Baker and Steven Milne at St Kilda. He went on to produce Ryan Crowley and his piste de resistance, Hayden Ballantyne at Fremantle.
But this article isn’t about fading feeling of infuriation. It is about current players, ones who cause heartburn, a stick in the craw.
I need to apologise to niggly sniper Tom Lynch, push into the ground post-free Trent Cochin, pinch and punch Stratton and manic Mitch Robinson. They all deserve a paragraph but there is only so much dwelling on annoying people that I can stomach. Must be the lockdown.
Joel is a champion. Three premierships and a six-time All Australian player. He has captained the Cats for ten years and played 333 games. He is one of the most courageous players to ever have played. There is rarely a week where he isn’t bloodied.
But some say that he has a cunning plan. Some say he drops his knee into a tackle and raises his arm to slip a tackle high. He does have a good record of receiving frees from high contact – and the umpires are now onto it.
He still does the duck and the arm raise, getting the blow to his head, but just not getting the frees anymore. Still, there are plenty who like to boo, and in fact shout some quite unsavoury things when he is anywhere near the ball. I believe that Selwood is yesterday’s anti-hero. The change in umpiring decisions has dragged him down.
Jack Riewoldt, what a poster boy for being annoying. Nearing the end of his career, he specialises in jumping on players in the marking contest. A sort of Jack into the pack. The only thing is that he only takes out players and the ball spills free. He doesn’t actually touch it himself.
To top up on this performance, he has developed a vaudeville routine of appealing for a free every time he is in the marking contest. He superbly keeps a straight face. The umpires must bite their lip.
The final trying technique is the invisible hand in the back resulting in falling forward. Opposition backmen are contemplating wearing white gloves so as the umpires can see their hands better.
Jack has been gifted a golden opportunity to annoy the most amount of people. He is a regular on Fox Footy’s AFL 360. Matching his on-field withering looks with spoken hubris does the trick.
“Good luck if you are playing us for the rest of the season.”
And the most annoying thing of all is that Riewoldt still came third in the Coleman.
I don’t think that Jack can claim this crown. He is cheating. Utilising the Edie McGuire technique to increase his irritation. And promptly losing most of his final 2021 games after that outlandish statement – we enjoyed that bit.
Toby shouldn’t be gracing this article. He has the skills and drive to be a Brownlow Medalist. A Norm Smith-winning premiership captain. But as the prominent satirist Maxwell Smart famously said, “If only he used his evil genius for niceness.”
Some people have said that Steve Johnson has tutored Toby Greene well. He will do anything to get under the skin of opposition players. Provoking a response. Uttering sweet nothings in backmen’s ears.
Toby has developed the art of the nasty hit within play. It could be accidental. But it’s not. He could just be unlucky with the umpires, the MRO and the judiciary. But he is not. He hurts people just because he can. Full studs to the face, eye gouges, hair pulling and general striking to the head or throat.
Even umpires don’t escape his aggression. Matt Stevic was the recipient of his shoulder charge for having the temerity of reversing a free kick against Greene. Then Greene proceeds to claim that he didn’t do anything, he “certainly would never touch him”.
The tribunal called it for what it was: aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful.
After Greene kicks a goal, from 55 out or a snap from the boundary, rather than jubilantly celebrating, he smiles. He smiles like Tweety Bird saying, “Take that puddy cat.” Oh, that smile.
Yes, Toby Greene has the demeanour, the petty meanness, and the smug looks that truly draw annoyance from most fans. Do you need to be a GWS fan to disagree?