AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan says it is “hard to reconcile” Toby Greene’s three-match suspension for intentional contact with an umpire, revealing he has approached league lawyers about appealing the tribunal’s decision.
- AFL counsel Jeff Gleeson QC asked for Toby Greene to be suspended for six weeks for making contact with an umpire
- Greene admitted he made contact with umpire Matt Stevic, but said it was not intentional
- Stevic said he did not feel Greene’s behaviour was threatening, but conceded it was “not a great look”
Greene’s season is over after he was banned on Tuesday for what the tribunal determined was an “aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful” interaction with experienced umpire Matt Stevic.
The incident occurred during three-quarter time of the Giants’ one-point win over the Sydney Swans in Saturday’s elimination final in Launceston.
Greene’s behaviour was described as “insolent and contemptuous” by AFL lawyer Jeff Gleeson QC, who called for a minimum six-match suspension.
The three-match ban — handed down by a jury made up of former AFL/VFL players Richard Loveridge, Stephen Jurica and Shane Wakelin — has ruled Greene out of the Giants’ sudden-death semi-final against Geelong on Friday night.
It means the dual All-Australian forward will not be available until at least round one next season, and potentially as late as round three, depending on how far the Giants go in this year’s finals series.
GWS accepted the decision, waiving their right to appeal.
But McLachlan later questioned whether the penalty was harsh enough, saying a decision on a possible appeal from the league could be made as early as Wednesday.
“I welcomed the tribunal verdict that it was intentional conduct and handing down a sanction,” McLachlan said.
“If I’m honest, I find it personally — and I need to be careful — hard to reconcile how it can be intentional conduct that was aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful … and then only be three weeks.
“We (the AFL) asked for six, these are the facts and it’s three, and I’m finding that personally hard to reconcile.”
Greene conceded he was at fault for making contact with Stevic, but repeatedly denied it was intentional during a tribunal hearing that lasted more than four hours.
“I do apologise for making contact and it’s certainly something that I wasn’t trying to do,” Greene told the tribunal.
“I agree that it’s not a great look for the game and I do apologise.”
In a surprise move, Greene’s lawyer Ben Ihle QC invited the tribunal to impose a “severe financial penalty” amounting to “four or five times” the maximum $5,000, rather than suspending the player.
Ihle admitted the contact was a “terrible look” for the game that should have been avoided.
“But that doesn’t mean the contact was intentional,” Ihle said.
The tribunal jury disagreed.
“Player Greene had a full view of the umpire,” the jury said in its findings.
“He was talking to the umpire, he walked straight towards the umpire, he was looking straight at the umpire.
“The umpire was stationary. Player Greene made contact with the umpire.
“In these circumstances, the jury is satisfied that the contact was aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful.”
In his evidence during the hearing, eight-time grand final umpire Stevic said he did not believe the “minor” contact caused by Greene was aggressive or demonstrative, and he did not feel “threatened” at any stage.
But after viewing multiple replays of the incident, Stevic said: “I don’t think it’s a good look for the game … I would say that there’s an element of it being disrespectful.”
AFL rules state that “contact with an umpire that is aggressive, forceful, demonstrative or disrespectful will be deemed intentional”.
Gleeson argued Greene’s actions could be seen as aggressive, demonstrative or disrespectful, but not forceful.
The Giants released a statement an hour after the decision was announced, declaring they would not appeal Greene’s suspension.
“I have complete appreciation for the role umpires play in our game and understand how critically important it is that they are respected at all times,” Greene said in the statement.