GREATER Western Sydney captain Stephen Coniglio has asked the football industry to "flip the script" on his phenomenally talented teammate Toby Greene.
In a wide-ranging interview with Damian Barrett on AFL.com.au, Coniglio delved deep into his respect for and friendship with the headline-causing Greene.
"The thing for me is yes, he has done some things he would change, and a couple of those things were in the finals series last year, but for me we need to flip the script on Toby and actually celebrate the individual we have," Coniglio said.
"Players like him, particularly if he did play for a big side in Melbourne, we would be talking more about what football player he is, not what type of person he is, because the type of person he is a phenomenal one.
"He was (stand-in) captain of our club, that doesn’t come lightly, especially in an organisation like ours where we pride ourselves on having a really string culture.
"He is so loyal to a lot of our players, and that might reflect on field. You saw with the (Marcus) Bontempelli one, he is doing that because he is almost defending what Bontempelli did to his teammate, and what he did a couple of weeks prior to that.
"It’s not like he’s intentionally going out there and just doing it off the cuff. He’s a very intellectual, smart guy, loyal. A great guy, a great friend, and I just want him to get to the end of his career and he is celebrated for the right reasons. Let’s celebrate the guy and what he does for the game."
By the time Greene reached last year's Grand Final against Richmond, he was emotionally spent, having been suspended after a semi-final, and missing a preliminary final win against Collingwood, and then being subjected to disgraceful taunts from Richmond supporters in the Grand Final parade.
"He had a lot of media speculation in September last year, and that built and built, with tribunal appearances, and then going into the biggest game of the season was a difficult time for Toby to escape anything," Coniglio said.
"That Grand Final week really got to him, particularly the Grand Final parade and having to go through that experience, and things he was hearing to his face and reading on social media.
"I remember after the game, we had a function, his mum was there and he was shattered. Just went home and went to bed. The next day we were flying back to Sydney, and I was going with him to Europe the Friday after, and he was just shattered, said I can’t wait to go away and escape and recharge, and get away from everything."
Coniglio, who returned to Perth to isolate with family when the COVID-19 outbreak shut down the AFL season, also spoke of the leadership skills he learned from former Australian cricketer Simon Katich, and how he seeks to enhance his leadership via books.
He said despite the disruptions of 2020, the season would ultimately find a premier team as worthy as any in the game's history.
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"If you’re talking about every team aspiring to win the premiership, in terms of resilience it will be huge in what will need to be overcome," Coniglio said.
"Every team is in the same situation through this spell, however long it may be, 10 weeks, 12 weeks, and then when we come back it is fair, we play everyone once, however that may be.
"If it is that we play two games a week, well, they do that overseas in soccer and football and it is just going to be a fascinating run home when we come back."