TOBY Greene will not play football again this year, with the AFL Tribunal handing the Greater Western Sydney superstar a three-match suspension for making intentional contact with umpire Matt Stevic.
After a marathon hearing on Tuesday morning that lasted well over four hours, the Tribunal agreed with AFL legal counsel Jeff Gleeson QC that Greene's actions were "insolent and contemptuous".
They found Greene guilty of intentionally making "aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful" contact to umpire Stevic, handing the Giants forward a sanction that will end his 2021 campaign.
AS IT HAPPENED All the key moments from the Tribunal hearing
In giving evidence to the Tribunal, Stevic described the contact as "minor" and said he didn't feel threatened at the time. But the veteran umpire revealed he "didn't think it was a good look for the game" and said "there was an element of it being disrespectful".
Greene, who had apologised to Stevic during the hearing, had pleaded not guilty to the charge and claimed he didn't realise he had made contact with the umpire until asked about the incident on TV after the match.
The League had pushed for a minimum six-match ban, while Greene's camp – led by legal representative Ben Ihle QC – had argued for a fine of $20-25,000 rather than a suspension as punishment.
Ultimately, the Tribunal's jury found middle ground, slapping Greene with a three-match ban to ensure he will not play football again this season regardless of how deep into the finals the Giants progress.
The Giants later confirmed they would not appeal the decision, with Greene releasing a statement that said: “I acknowledge contact was made with umpire Stevic as I walked to the three-quarter time huddle during Saturday’s game and I regret this accidental contact occurred.
"I apologise again to Matt for this accident, as I did earlier today during the Tribunal hearing. It was not my intention to make contact with Matt while we were engaged in discussion at the time.
"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.
"I accept the determination of the Tribunal and will now look to support my teammates in any way I can ahead of this week’s game."
Stevic's evidence, which lasted for 29 minutes, proved crucial to the hearing's outcome. It came after an email sent to umpires coach Michael Jennings after the match revealed: "I considered the contact minor and didn't feel threatened at the time."
TOBY TROUBLE 22 charges, nearly $30K in fines
He repeatedly suggested that, in the moment, he didn't feel the contact was either aggressive, demonstrative or disrespectful. However, upon later seeing the vision and realising he hadn't contributed to the incident, his thoughts had changed.
In a significant statement to finish his examination, Stevic said: "To be honest, I don't think it's a good look for the game. I don't believe the contact was forceful … (but) I would say there is an element of it being disrespectful."
Stevic's umpire mic had earlier revealed that during the incident, as Greene approached, he had claimed Swans youngster Justin McInerney had taken "a f***ing dive" to win a free kick in the third quarter.
But Greene, who gave evidence for 41 minutes, said he didn't realise he had made contact with Stevic until asked a question about the incident in a post-game interview with Channel 7 reporter Luke Hodge.
He apologised to Stevic during the hearing, agreeing that "it's not a great look for the game", but reiterated "I was trying to avoid it at the same time" and claimed he had turned his body in order to do so.
Greene, in explaining his close proximity to Stevic at the time of contact, said: "I was aware I was very close to him … there were some loud noises around me, so that's why I was extremely close. There were a lot of loud noises coming from my teammates."
Gleeson had claimed that Greene could have "easily followed" teammate Harry Perryman in evading Stevic and launched a scathing final submission to the Tribunal's jury of Richard Loveridge, Stephen Jurica and Shane Wakelin.
In it, he said: "It's fundamental to our game … that the umpire is respected. The moment any of us deviate from enforcing that rule, because it's hard, is the moment we change the game and the way our umpires are treated."
Ihle agreed that "it's not a good look for the game … it's a terrible look", but said the Tribunal wasn't to decide on 'the look'. Rather, he said they must ask the question: "At the point contact was made, what was going through Toby Greene's mind?"
Needing to find Greene guilty of intentionally committing one act of either aggressive, forceful, demonstrative or disrespectful contact with Stevic, the Tribunal's jury took 44 minutes to decide the incident filled three of the four categories.
Once found guilty, Gleeson – acting on behalf of the AFL – argued for a minimum six-match suspension, saying: "This is a serious offence and a serious moment in the governance of the game."
It was countered by Ihle – acting on behalf of Greene – advocating for a $20-25,000 fine instead of a lengthy ban. He pointed to Tom Hawkins' one-game suspension in 2018, saying the jury should be informed "by the previous cases that have come before you".
The Tribunal's jury deliberated for a further 17 minutes before eventually coming to a final decision, reaching a middle ground by opting to ban Greene for the next three matches and subsequently ending his season.
Greene had been referred directly to the Tribunal by Match Review Officer Michael Christian, having bumped umpire Stevic while heading to the three-quarter time huddle during Saturday's elimination final win over rivals Sydney.
It was the 22nd time Greene had been found guilty of a Match Review charge throughout his 176-game career, which has now culminated in 11 games worth of suspensions and $29,350 worth of fines.