AFL finals: GWS defeat Sydney in elimination thriller as Toby Greene in hot water
Greater Western Sydney firebrand Toby Greene will be at the centre of one of the AFL’s most intriguing tribunal cases after the Giants survived a riveting elimination final against Sydney on Saturday.
The Giants held on by one point, after the last six scores of the match were Swans behinds as they fell agonisingly short despite dominating the last quarter.
In a match brimming with sub plots, Sydney champion Lance Franklin missed a shot from just outside the 50m arc with two minutes remaining. If Franklin had kicked it, it would have put the Swans in front after they surged back from a 29-point deficit and taken him to 996 goals with a chance to bring up the magical 1000-goal milestone in Perth.
The Giants added just one behind to Sydney’s 2.7 for the final term as they held on 11.8 (74) to 10.13 (73) in Launceston to book a semifinal showdown with Geelong at Optus Stadium on Friday night.
As ever, Greene was the headline act after kicking three first-half goals before appearing to bump umpire Matt Stevic during an animated exchange at three-quarter time.
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The All-Australian forward, who is likely to be sent straight to the tribunal, struggled to explain the apparent contact.
“I don’t know what it was. It was just in the moment,” Greene said.
“I certainly wouldn’t even touch them. I think I was just talking to him about something in the game.
“You could see that last 10 minutes we were out on our feet. I’ve never felt that cooked in a game to be honest. It’s just an amazing effort and it just shows what the group’s made of.”
Former Geelong midfielder Cameron Ling believed Greene had a case to answer.
“I think he’s got an issue there. Umpires are absolutely off limits and just a brain fade,” Ling said.
“He was so fixed in what he wanted to say. Toby will have a case to answer for during the week and he could miss a final for that. He could miss a couple of finals.”
Collingwood captain Scott Pendlebury took to Twitter to defend Greene, writing: “Incoming Toby tax…. (Lachie) Neale got fine didn’t he? Shouldn’t touch the umpires but that contact wasn’t more aggressive than Neale’s for mine.”
A specific tribunal guideline was implemented in 2019 to say that umpire contact will be regarded as intentional if contact is “aggressive, forceful, disrespectful or demonstrative.”
Giants coach Leon Cameron backed his man.
“It’s very hard for me to comment on it. Clearly it’s a talking point,” Cameron said.
“But all I know is it wouldn’t have been intentional. I love the way he goes about things. I know he’s a talked about player.
“But I’d like to really hone in on the positive stuff. I thought his first three quarters were unbelievable in terms of the footy he played.”
Former Fremantle forward Jesse Hogan, who kicked 2.2 after hitting the post twice, was a huge presence for the Giants despite twice hitting the post, dragging down a game-high six contested marks while no other player took more than two.
Isaac Heeney threatened to be the hero for the Swans, kicking four second-half goals, while teammate Luke Parker had a game-high 34 touches.
An emotional Sydney coach John Longmire described the defeat as gut-wrenching after more than two months on the road.
“We’re shattered as a footy club at the moment,” Longmire said.
“We had 20 more inside 50s (65-46) and kicked 2.7 in the last quarter. So it’s a gut-wrenching way to finish the season.
“I’m just so proud of this footy club the way we’ve been able to face the challenges head on all through this season.
“And we did it again tonight. We were five goals down and we kept coming and coming and gave ourselves what we thought was every chance to win.”
The efficient Giants led by 23 points at half-time, despite the Swans enjoying a 38-24 advantage in inside 50 entries.
Powered by their control of the contested ball fight and their ability to score from stoppages, GWS moved into the driver’s seat with five consecutive goals in the second term, including four from their first four inside 50s, as Franklin responded to Greene’s heroics as the star pair each had three goals by the major break.
Hogan twice hit the same goal post in the space of a couple of minutes after taking strong marks in the third term, as the Swans got three in a row including two to Heeney to loom large.
Hogan, an increasingly presence in the third term on the back of his powerful marking, made amends with a crucial set shot conversion after the three-quarter time siren which stretched the Giants’ advantage back out to 19 points.
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