Toby Greene is the AFL’s most polarising character. He is a captivating figure deservedly lauded for his on-field brilliance, but also fairly lambasted for his moments of on-field madness.
Greene’s altercation with experienced field umpire Matt Stevic in Launceston on Saturday — regardless of the extent of contact between the two — was another moment of mindlessness that sadly diminishes his reputation.
I am an unashamed admirer of Greene and desperately hope he can change his ways.
The GWS Giants’ prized number four is extraordinarily gifted, with rare football smarts matched by his breathtaking skill.
Greene is that precious football commodity — a matchwinner. He is someone fans and players alike simply have to keep their eyes on.
But Greene is also a football recidivist, a complex athlete who walks an inexplicable line between hero and villain. One minute he is riding into town on a white horse to save the locals; the next, he has ridden off after stealing the town’s supply of grain. The Toby tax.
On ABC Sport, former Giants captain Callan Ward offered a refreshingly honest insight into the player who has again sent talkback radio switchboards into meltdown.
“His personality is just a competitive beast,” Ward said.
“Why he’s stepped over the line a couple of times in the past, I’m not too sure. Maybe he’s over-competitive, maybe he’s trying to do too much, maybe he wants to be the leader that stands up.
“If it keeps happening, it probably gets to the point where it’s got to stop, doesn’t it?”
Ward admitted the older players in the Giants squad had previously engaged in “casual” conversations with Greene about his disciplinary issues, conceding it was something he needed to keep working on.
“I guess the answer is probably yes, he’s been to the tribunal a couple of times again of late and I guess continues to walk that fine line,” he said.
“I think it is probably a work in progress … we’ve always said we love the way he plays and he’s so passionate about everything, but he’s just got to be careful with a few of the things he does.”
Whether the Giants will have their star player for Friday night’s sudden-death semi-final against Geelong is still to be determined.
Opinions, much like those of the man himself, are polarising.
Concerns for the Cats
While Greene prepares to front the tribunal, Geelong coach Chris Scott has serious issues to attend to ahead of the Giants clash.
The Cats are staring down the barrel of a wasted season after capitulating in round 23 against Melbourne and failing to fire a shot against Port Adelaide in Friday night’s qualifying final.
Geelong has won only one of its past nine opening-round finals, a pattern the club’s most recent premiership captain, Cameron Ling, was not willing to gloss over.
“When it happens that often it’s not pure coincidence,” he told The Lead on ABC Sport.
“There were half a dozen to eight Geelong players who were rattled by the pressure and the situation. There was coughing up of the footy, there was a lot of fumbling, there were players who were found out of their depth.”
Essendon premiership player Adam Ramanauskas agreed the Cats had crumbled in the face of intense opposition pressure.
“Melbourne turned the heat up on them in the second half and [against] Port Adelaide, it was boiling at the Adelaide Oval,” he said.
Scott must now weigh up whether to back in those who failed, or take the drastic measure of changing a side in which he has placed immense trust.
Zach Tuohy will return as a direct swap for the injured Mark O’Connor, but Ling does not believe that should be the only change.
“Rhys Stanley is out, Esava Ratugolea’s in — I’ve seen that movie before, I don’t need to see it again,” he said.
“Quinton Narkle has to play, probably [leave] Shaun Higgins out, and [pick] Jordan Clark as the medical sub as another runner.”
As a huge match looms at the start of the second week of finals, crucial decisions are pending for both combatants, which potentially could be season-defining.
The ins and outs of footy …