The AFL has labelled the three-match ban given to Greater Western Sydney star Toby Greene “manifestly inadequate,” but there will be no closure to the controversy until after the grand final.
The league’s football operations boss Andrew Dillon told the Giants and the game’s appeal board on Wednesday that the AFL would appeal the ban the tribunal handed to Greene for making contact with an umpire.
But the appeal will not be heard until after the 2021 finals series, at the request of the Giants, whose focus has now turned to winning an inaugural premiership. Greene now faces a lengthy wait to learn how much his latest indiscretion will eat into his 2022 campaign.
The league is pushing for a lengthier suspension to show that such behaviour towards umpires cannot be tolerated at any level of the game.
There is no silver lining for Greene, the Giants vice-captain. The earliest he can return to the field is round one next year, but he will have missed an opportunity to play in a grand final, should the Giants make it that far. If the AFL is successful in extending his suspension to a minimum of six games, Greene could be out of action for at least the first five rounds of next year should the Giants bow out to Geelong on Friday night in Perth.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan had foreshadowed contesting Greene’s sanction for making contact with umpire Matt Stevic on Tuesday, saying he found it “perplexing” the Giant had not been rubbed out for longer.
“The AFL tribunal found that Greene’s contact with the umpire was intentional and that it was also aggressive, disrespectful, and demonstrative,” the league said in a statement on Wednesday.
“On that basis, Mr Dillon said the AFL had appealed the three-game suspension on the ground that the sanction imposed was manifestly inadequate.
“Mr Dillon reinforced that respect for umpires and the safety of umpires in our game is what our sport is built on and must be protected. As the keeper of the code, the AFL has a responsibility to act in the interests of all in the sport.”
News of the appeal came as Giants captain Stephen Coniglio described Greene’s actions as unacceptable, endorsing the tribunal’s decision to rub him out for the rest of the season. But the club will wait until its finals campaign is over before contemplating any intervention over the forward’s continued ill-discipline.
Stephen Coniglio embraces Toby Greene after GWS’ last win over Geelong in round 21.Credit:AFL Photos
Though Greene did not plead guilty to making intentional contact with the umpire, the Giants entered Tuesday’s hearing not expecting their vice-captain to be available this week.
Greene will remain with the playing group in Perth as the Giants prepare for the clash with Geelong, and Coniglio said he would still be a valuable contributor to the team at training during the week.
This is the second time Greene has been suspended during a finals series, while he has now been found guilty of an AFL match review charge a record 22 times across his 176-game career.
Asked if the leadership group or coaching panel had spoken to Greene about his misbehaviour, Coniglio said now was not the time for those discussions.
“We’ve got a game in 48 hours to really prepare now and put our energy into. We’ll be without Toby for the next few weeks, so that’s something for us probably in a little bit to work on,” he said.
“We need to put all our energy into [this game]. Yesterday, to be fair, as everyone would have been reading, following, what was happening with the tribunal case, we actually had to get on the bus and travelled an hour and a half and then flew across to Perth – so yesterday was a big day for everyone.”
Coniglio, a close friend of Greene, said he had told him his “phone’s always on” and was ready for such a chat after GWS’ finals campaign was over.
“No doubt he’s been our best player all season and such an important member. We’d love to have him running out every week,” he said.
“However, we accept the punishment that’s been given. Toby himself has shown remorse, obviously, for his actions and to the umpire.
“You simply can’t do that in our game and we hold the umpires in such high regard and treat them with a lot of respect. I’m definitely disappointed he won’t be running out with us, but we have to accept it’s not allowed in our game.”
Although the Giants’ hopes of beating the Cats have been written off by many pundits following Greene’s suspension, Coniglio was adamant they could still go deep in the finals without him.
GWS famously beat Collingwood by four points in the 2019 preliminary final – which Greene missed due to a one-match suspension for making unnecessary or unreasonable contact to the eye region of Brisbane’s Lachie Neale – while Coniglio said another season full of COVID-related uncertainty and upheaval had primed them for all challenges.
“The whole season, it’s been one of facing a lot of adversity, whether it be through injury or suspensions here or there or being on the road now for 10 weeks,” he said.
“We’ve really found energy off that. Our last month has shown we’re just loving whatever’s thrown in our face.
“We went down to Geelong last time with a very undermanned side and our last weeks have been phenomenal from a performance point-of-view but also just for a camaraderie amongst the group, and energy that’s been infected.”
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