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We hate GWS because their unsporting culture is poisoning the AFL


Sept. 18, 2019

Sam Duncan is half-right about why we love to hate the Giants ( The Age , 17/9). As the supporter of one of those manufactured teams – the Brisbane Lions – who received a whole lot of handouts and then had the gall to go on to win premierships, you can’t help but be aware that some Victorians hold expansion teams in contempt.
But that’s not why I – or a lot of other people – hate the Greater Western Sydney Giants. We hate them because they field a number of dirty players who also seem to be a kind of protected species.
Yes, the AFL finally suspended Toby Greene for one match this week . They had to. He’d been warned, and fined, and warned again and refused to moderate his behaviour. It could not be ignored any longer. But GWS are appealing – because heaven forbid Greene should be held to account in any way when there’s a match to be won.
We’re not talking about playing hard. Dustin Martin plays hard. No one played harder than Jonathan Brown. But we don’t hate those guys. We love them. What we hate is precisely what one of the umpires during last weekend’s final called out as behaviour that’s not in the spirit of the game. Ugly, underhand, designed purely to hurt. Not hard behaviour. Hateful behaviour.
In fairness, while Greene is certainly the most egregious offender, he’s not the only one. And it’s a problem. Not just because kicking, spitting and gouging are unsportsmanlike, although they are. There’s another dimension that goes beyond the game that the AFL – and individual teams – have shown themselves lamentably reluctant to deal with. And that’s the message we give these young men about their behaviour at a really important time in their lives.
Greene is 25. He’s been with the Giants since he was a teenager. He’s been regularly caught out in ugly, violent and inappropriate behaviour for years and suffered almost zero consequences. So the lesson he’s been learning since he was a teenager is that for him – for Toby Greene, because he’s an awesome footy player, because he’s special – ugly, violent behaviour is OK. Celebrated even. And that’s dangerous, not so much for the rest of us as for this boy himself.
No one expects these kids to be angels. But there must be consequences. Trouble is, unless you’re not a great footy player to begin with, there so rarely are. The list of former AFL players who have suffered as a result of being given a perpetual free pass during their playing careers is too extensive to mention. But just think, for instance, of Ben Cousins. How different might his life be now if he’d been called out on his drug use on day one?
So we don’t hate GWS because they’re “invented” or get handouts or even because they’re successful. We hate them for a culture that’s as damaging to their own players as it is to the competition as a whole.
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