AFL 1 year ago

Intentional Or Not Intentional? Assessing the Toby Greene Hit

  • Intentional Or Not Intentional? Assessing the Toby Greene Hit

    CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 28: Tom Liberatore of the Bulldogsremonstrates with Toby Greene of the Giants after he laid a late hit on Caleb Daniel of the Bulldogs during the 2017 AFL round 06 match between the GWS Giants and the Western Bulldogs at the UNSW Canberra Oval on April 28, 2017 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)

Friday night's clash between the Western Bulldogs and the Greater Western Sydney was another thrilling chapter in the rivalry between two of the AFL's most exciting teams in the league to date, but the big talking point out of this game isn't a game-breaking player or a game-changing goal.

The talking point of this match is about a very talented player, yet such a mischievous and troublesome player in the worst sense on and off the field. I'm talking about GWS forward Toby Greene and his hit on Western Bulldog player Caleb Daniel late in the third quarter of the Friday night blockbuster at Canberra's Manuka Oval. On Monday afternoon, the Match Review Panel handed Greene a two-game suspension for the hit, citing the hit as 'Intentional conduct with medium impact to the head'.

Since Friday night, Greene has been bastardised and crucified by the Western Bulldogs supporters on social media. Terms such as 'Grub Footballer', 'Thug' and 'A Filthy Sniper' were amongst the most popular comments on social media throughout the weekend, and to an extent, Doggies' fans were entitled to it. It wasn't a pretty sight to see in a game that was well and truly in the balance and Toby Greene has never been exactly an angel of the AFL.

His record dating back to when he began his career in the league will testify to this. From a range of offences from striking to spitting on field to being heavily involved in drunken fights off the field, it's not hard to see why your everyday AFL fan - unless he's barracking for Greater Western Sydney - isn't particularly fond of Greene, regardless of how freakishly skilled he has been over the past five-six years. 

He averaged over 28 disposals a game in 19 games in his first year as an 18-year old. He was runner-up in GWS' best and fairest, and if it wasn't for a hit on Brisbane's Jed Adcock in round 12, which landed him a one-match suspension, he would've taken out the AFL's Rising Star award. Fast forward to the end of 2016, just five years after he was drafted just outside the top 10 in the 2011 AFL Draft, Greene became an All-Australian for the first time, kicking 44 goals and averaging over 21 disposals a match in a breakout year. 

This year, he's already got 20 goals to his name in only six matches, but unfortunately, his incredibly good footy has been marred with consistently poor behaviour, which in my eyes is a damn shame, because I'm not ashamed to admit it when I say that Toby Greene is a superstar player, and not many people can kick bags of goals and rack up possessions.

Now to the hit, that has sparked plenty of debate. Admittedly I had initially dismissed it as an act of thuggery, but after watching the replays time and time again in the span of 24 hours, it gives you more to think about. Now I don't condone anyone, let alone Greene, to punch somebody in the chops in an AFL game, even if that person was in fact the shortest bloke in the AFL today, but Greene might've been unfairly crucified by a lot people inside the social media world.

Hear me out here, yesterday I was in a heated discussion with my father, who isn't overly big on Toby Greene or his rather colourful history, but accepts he is a star. A lot of people reading this will be adamant that he struck Daniel on purpose and that he is nothing more than a 'Dirty Rat' as some people from social media have so eloquently put it, but he believes it was a harsh call to put him on report and slug him with a two-game suspension.

So let's replay the scenario. Tom Liberatore has the ball about 70-75 metres out from goal on the boundary line between half-forward and centre wing. He chips the ball to an unguarded Caleb Daniel with Toby Greene fast approaching, Daniel takes the mark and then falls to ground, with the umpire putting Greene on report with which was followed by a puzzling comment from umpire Shaun Ryan, who told Greene on the night:

"We've been telling you for a couple of weeks now, you've been very close to the edge".

It's a very understandable quote, given that Greene's behaviour this season alone has been very daring - almost as if he was looking for a holiday, but that would sound completely ridiculous to anyone playing AFL. But the umpires are there to officiate the game and make decisions according to what they see, not for watching players who are notorious for their misdemeanours and report them the first chance they can get.

The replay in slow motion shows that as Daniel takes the mark, Greene begins to form the fist and takes the swing when Daniel's feet land on the ground. Take a minute to be in Greene's position. You're at half back with the Bulldogs going forward and you are a chance to spoil the ball, do you do it? or do you just accept that you may not impact the contest and just man the mark? In the heat of the contest - and the Giants were ahead by a point late in the third quarter - Greene simply did what he thought was the right thing and tried to knock the ball from Daniel's hand, but arrived a fraction too late. But try telling that to the Bulldogs' contingent, that it wasn't unintentional. It left Daniel with a bloody mouth, a 50-metre penalty and a Bulldogs goal that was badly needed. 

These two photos here show that Greene had his eyes shut just before the time of impact, which I think is simply careless and a very clumsy move.

The hit definitely warranted the 50-metre penalty, but did it deserve a report in the umpire's book and a two-week suspension? It's an argument you can go both ways here. To Greene's defence, he was trying to make a contest of it, make his opponent earn his disposal as you're supposed to learn when you play the game as a junior, and recklessly - not intentionally - clobbered Daniel. To argue against Greene, there's the fact that anything above the neck is considered sacrosanct in today's AFL. 20 years ago, not many people would've batted an eyelid towards all of his antics both on field or off, but today's AFL expects you not touch people in the face, whether it be a bump or a fist.

But given all of his past indiscretions, I believe giving Greene a two-week suspension was probably the right call to make, but whether or not Greene intentionally went out of his way to strike Daniel or not - we'll never truly know. Us supporters, amateur analysts and expert journalists can only assume and guess these sort of things.

This incident comes just less than a week after the Greater Western Sydney Football Club warned both Greene and another notorious hot-head and fellow All-Australian from last year in Heath Shaw to control their aggression, and whilst both men still a long way away from rectifying their loose-cannon ways, losing Greene for a fortnight won't be the be-all, end-all of Greater Western Sydney's 2017 campaign, as in the next two weeks, the Giants play St. Kilda and Collingwood - games that they should win.

As for the Western Bulldogs and my fellow supporters who believed Greene was in the wrong, there's not much that can be done to alter the history. All one can do now is look forward to the future, and with a return date against the Giants scheduled at Etihad Stadium later on in the year, it'll be interesting to see how the Bulldogs players respond to all of this.

Photos Courtesy Of Getty Images
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