Toby Greene is a tremendous athlete and I don’t mean ‘for a young guy.’ Oh, no. He’s a great AFL player, period. It pains me to admit this considering I want Jeremy Cameron bestowed the honor, but up until round eight, Greene was a sure thing for the NAB Rising Star Award (although interestingly, he wasn’t nominated until round 14). But then, he was suspended for a high hit on Jed Adcock and people started questioning whether or not a suspension should make a player ineligible for the Rising Star award.
I’m sure the issue has come up before, but people are talking about changing the rules. Rule changes for the AFL? How shocking. (That’s sarcasm – they change all the time). So let me break this down for you in the simplest way possible.
The Current Rule: If a player racks up 100 demerit points, he’s ineligible to win the NAB Rising Star Award. He can, however, still be nominated.
The Issue: Toby Greene was all set to win, but committed an offense worth more than 200 demerit points. The Rising Star selection committee (All-Australian selection committee) are bummed because they want him eligible. It would make their jobs so much easier.
The New Idea: Never mind demerit points and suspensions – just pick the best new player.
What I Know: The NAB Rising Star award is designed to “recognise and encourage talented young players in the AFL.” Just because a player slips up and hits someone a little too high or pulls a Chris Judd and chicken wings someone’s arm… does that diminish his talent? Not likely. If the award is going to meet its goals, then it needs to recognise the most promising players, regardless of their indiscretions.
One great example is Ben Cousins – Rising Star, Leigh Matthews Trophy and a Brownlow, but not exactly the most pristine reputation (he’s a drug addict, in case you hadn’t heard). There is no arguing that he was a great player, but all these awards were given despite the fact that outside the game, he was a wreck. It shouldn’t matter, right? Well, maybe.
What I Think: The difference between Ben Cousins and Toby Greene is that his indiscretions happened OUTSIDE the football field. The best players aren’t the ones who break rules and get more than 100 demerit points. You have to pull quite a stunt to get 100 demerit points – it doesn’t happen accidentally (well, maybe it does – I’ve never player professional footy).
I also think the selection committee is too hung up on Toby Greene. Yes, it’s an unfortunate situation but changing the rules to accommodate suspended players gives the impression that rule breaking is acceptable. And what will they do for different types of offenses? It’s hard to draw line between ‘acceptable’ suspension and and ‘unacceptable’ suspension. Let’s say player gets one week suspension for “rough conduct“- okay, all good, still eligible. But then a player gets one week suspension for punching an opponent – still okay? Still good? Hm… I’m not sure. By not eliminating these players from the running, the AFL is essentially condoning bad behaviour and if it has to pick and choose between types of demerit points and suspensions, it becomes an unfair award. Keep it how it is – it much more fair that way.
What Will Happen: The rule will change. It can’t change in time for Toby Greene to get his well-deserved award, but mark my words: it’ll change… and soon.