Greater Western Sydney star Toby Greene admits last year’s AFL grand final loss was among the toughest experiences of his life, compounded by the arrest of his father who was attending the match.
Greene was left shattered when the Giants were soundly beaten by Richmond at the MCG, before having to deal with the news his father Michael was arrested for headbutting a police officer.
He said he found himself at a low point in the days following the grand final but appreciated the support of his Giants teammates, who rallied around the 26-year-old.
“It just really built up and I just sort of didn’t know how to react, and then flying back to Sydney, it was a real depressing flight I guess,” Greene told The Phil Davis Podcast.
“It was a really dark couple of days but I was around you guys [Giants teammates].”
Greene’s parents separated when he was a young child, and he and his two brothers were largely raised by their mother Kate in the Melbourne suburb of Ashburton.
He said the separation of his parents “took a toll” on him while growing up, although he still had contact with his father, mostly through their shared interest in Australian rules football.
“In terms of football, he loved it just as much as I did,” Greene said.
“It was pretty much all we did as kids growing and then, I guess, some of his stuff outside of that left a bit to be desired.
“He went into a bit of a decline in the last 10 years or so, but I guess some of that has been documented. But it is what it is and [I] just learned to deal with it.”
Greene mindful of on-field reputation
Greene conceded he was inclined to play “on the edge” and this had resulted in several suspensions, fines and visits to the AFL tribunal throughout his career, which began at the Giants in their inaugural season in 2012.
His most recent sanction, a one-week ban for making contact to the eye region of Brisbane’s Lachie Neale, saw him miss last year’s preliminary final against Collingwood.
The Giants won without Greene by just four points to qualify for their first grand final, but he knew he had let the team down at a pivotal moment in their history.
“If we had lost that Collingwood prelim it would have really hurt,” Greene said.
“I remember thinking in the last couple of minutes that if we lose this game I’m walking home.
“I don’t think I [could have looked] at anyone at the footy club for a long time. I would have felt just so shattered and so bad.”
Greene said there had never been premeditation behind his on-field behaviour and, while he hoped to avoid suspension in the future, he could not “make any promises”.
He said he had got himself into strife in the past because his energy was “just through the roof”.
“The atmosphere builds and that seems to be when I find myself getting into a bit of trouble,” Greene said.
“I’m just hyper-energetic and playing on the edge.”
Spectator abuse doesn’t affect Greene
The on-field approach of Greene, who has been described in the AFL media as a “polarising” and “divisive” figure, has meant he is often the target of abuse and booing from opposition supporters.
Being on the receiving end does not faze Greene, but he says spectator abuse has “certainly stepped over the line” when family members watching on in the grandstand have been targeted.
“I know it has affected Mum and my family a lot more and they’ve probably been involved with a couple of arguments at the footy just from what people have said,” Greene said.
At least one family member might not attend Giants matches in the future, however, with Greene acknowledging his grandmother was left shocked after last year’s grand final.
“Grandma came to the grand final last year and that might be the last game she comes to,” he said with a laugh.
“I think she heard some things she might not have heard in her 90 years.”