The AFL is considering appealing the three-week ban handed to GWS Giants star Toby Greene after league boss Gillon McLachlan described the sanction as 'hard to reconcile'.
Greene was the subject of intense scrutiny leading up to his Tribunal hearing on Tuesday, where he pleaded not guilty to intentionally making contact with an umpire.
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After a hearing that went for more than four hours, the Tribunal found Green guilty of the charge and suspended him for three weeks.
The ban effectively ends Greene's season and could spill over into the 2022 season depending on how far the Giants advance in the finals.
However the result was not necessarily well received by McLachlan, after the AFL had pushed for Greene to be sidelined for six weeks, rather than just three.
McLachlan said that while he respected the decision of Tribunal members Richard Loveridge, Stephen Jurica and Shane Wakelin, the AFL was seriously considering an appeal against the leniency of the sentence.
"I welcomed the tribunal verdict that it was intentional conduct and handing down a sanction," McLachlan told reporters on Tuesday.
"If I'm honest, I find it personally - and I need to be careful - hard to reconcile how it can be intentional conduct that was aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful ... and then only be three weeks.
"We (the AFL) asked for six, these are the facts and it's three - and I'm finding that personally hard to reconcile."
In a surprise move, Greene's lawyer Ben Ihle QC invited the tribunal to impose a "severe financial penalty" amounting to "four or five times" the maximum $5000, rather than suspending the player.
Toby Greene banned for three games over umpire contact
Greene's run-in with umpire Matt Stevic occurred during three-quarter time of the Giants' one-point win over Sydney in last Saturday's elimination final.
On Tuesday, Greene conceded he was at fault for making contact with Stevic but repeatedly denied it was intentional during a tribunal hearing that lasted more than four hours.
"I do apologise for making contact and it's certainly something that I wasn't trying to do," Greene told the tribunal.
"I agree that it's not a great look for the game and I do apologise."
Ihle admitted the contact was a "terrible look" for the game that should have been avoided.
"But that doesn't mean the contact was intentional," Ihle said.
The tribunal jury disagreed.
"Player Greene had a full view of the umpire," the jury said in its findings.
"He was talking to the umpire, he walked straight towards the umpire, he was looking straight at the umpire.
"The umpire was stationary. Player Greene made contact with the umpire.
"In these circumstances, the jury is satisfied that the contact was aggressive, demonstrative and disrespectful."
The AFL is tonight considering a sensational appeal of Toby Greene's three match ban after League boss Gillon McLachlan declared he was perplexed by the tribunal's leniency. @AyrtonWoolley #9News pic.twitter.com/dXJyxyP1N8
— 9News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) August 31, 2021
In his evidence during the hearing, eight-time grand final umpire Stevic said he did not believe the "minor" contact caused by Greene was aggressive or demonstrative, and he did not feel "threatened" at any stage.
But after viewing multiple replays of the incident, Stevic said: "I don't think it's a good look for the game ... I would say that there's an element of it being disrespectful."
AFL rules state that "contact with an umpire that is aggressive, forceful, demonstrative or disrespectful will be deemed intentional".
Gleeson argued Greene's actions could be seen as aggressive, demonstrative or disrespectful, but not forceful.
The Giants released a statement an hour after the decision was announced, declaring they would not appeal Greene's suspension.
"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," Greene said in the statement.
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