Greene: ‘I do care what people think of me’
Robbo interviewed Greene in May 2016, where the Giants youngster spoke on footy, his teenage days, family life, off-field indiscretions and maturing.
Toby Greene doesn't look you in the eye at first.
He knows it's a warts and all safari through a life of just 22 years (now 25) and he takes a little time to warm up.
Gather it's a sense of trust for Greene. That, and a self-preservation mechanism that refrains him from telling absolutely everything.
"Let's have a few beers one night and I'll tell you some stories,'' he says.
He said that with a grin, which was quarter smart-arse-ish, quarter cheeky, quarter intriguing and quarter know-it-all, like, 'Mate, are you ready for me to lay it all out?'.
He had stories thrown at him, mind you.
Like the time, at Setanta O' hAilpin's wedding in Hawaii, when a drunk Greene left a nightclub, had forgotten his jacket, wanted to get back in and the bouncers said no. The result was Greene took on the bouncers in a fight and took a pounding.
"How did you know that?'' he said. "I don't know the story real well because I don't remember it. The best person to be asking is Paul Bower (former Carton teammate of O'hAilpin's). I think he saved my life. I got a massive hiding.''
Another confrontation minutes later with an African American, who was not a bouncer, made it a quinella of pain. "Yeah, um, can't remember that one,'' he said.
How many can't remembers in life? "Not many, but that was one, but that was a big day. It was hot, I think the heat got to me.''
As is said in American sports, he's got game.
He also, at times, has been described as being loose. But those who know him well say he's adventurous, worldly, caring, fiercely loyal to friends and you get the feeling his mum is the most important person in his life.
The oldest of three boys, Greene grew up in Ashburton with his mum and Malvern with his dad. The parents split when Greene was "five or six'', but that did not deny him having a loving upbringing.
"No, I don't think I had a difficult upbringing. Mum and dad were pretty much the complete opposite. Mum was a really good mum. I went to a private school, got a scholarship to Wesley and that was lucky, and Dad sort of had some troubles growing up. He's still a good dad, but he couldn't control himself sometimes I guess.''
Nor could Greene always as a teenager.
Stream every match of the 2019 Toyota AFL Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand on KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14 day free trial and start streaming instantly >
Greene almost missed his AFL career.
A prolific ball-winning midfielder, he played junior footy for Ashburton and Wesley College before getting the attention of the Oakleigh Chargers.
He is famously remembered in one game for Wesley, when after cramping in the midfield late in the final quarter, he was moved forward and kicked four late goals to lift his team to victory.
"Toby just has a real desire for competition and appetite for hard work,'' Wesley coach Peter Curran told the Herald Sun in 2012, during Greene's first year with Greater Western Sydney.
Before being drafted, he also had an appetite for partying.
"I got better when I thought I was going to get drafted,'' he said. "I was all right. I mucked around a bit as a kid, 16, 17, 18. I had a bit of freedom on weekends and I probably made the most of that and not always in a good way, but it was part of growing up. I could pretty much do whatever I wanted on weekends and I probably wasn't ready for that.''
A weekend troublemaker?
"I wasn't rude or anything, yeah, just a troublemaker.''
Like? "Walk around the streets doing stupid shit, not so much fighting, maybe a bit of throwing eggs at cars and getting them to chase us. That was high on the list.''
Drinking? "Yeah, sometimes.''
The fact is Green first got drunk at 14, which doesn't make him Robinson Crusoe, and he was fond of bourbon at 15.
His weekends were simple enough back then, although mum wasn't in the know.
Greene's father Mick and his uncle Paul were legend amateur players with De La Salle and Victoria, and Greene would always watch them play.
"I'd go to Dairy Bell park, watch dad, play footy for Ashburton on Sundays, and I'd usually have a few people at my house on Saturday nights and that was pretty much my weekends,'' he said.
Asked if dad was lenient, he said: "He is one of the nicest guys you'd ever meet. If you ask all my mates, he always looked after us really well, he just let so much go. He's really caring, really understanding, but he's just put his body through too much.''
There were moments with dad and son, although son didn't want to go into deep detail.
The truth is Mick's had issues with alcohol. But Mick is doing well, which thrills his son.
There was a time, though, when the relationship was strained.
In 2013, at the MCG after GWS won its first game in Melbourne, Mick was three sheets to the wind and joined family and friends in the rooms post-match.
He was boisterous - and Greene lost it with him.
"I had a massive go at him because it was pretty embarrassing for me,'' he said. "This was in front of everyone. He's always pretty loud at footy games and then he came into the change rooms and it was embarrassing. Everyone was, like, 'Who the hell is that bloke?' I just walked away and then I came out 10 minutes later, I pushed him, and told him I would never talk to him again.
"And I didn't speak to him for a while, but he's been good lately, I've been speaking to him heaps more.''
Greene was next on the Giants radar - publicly at least - in May, 2014, after an incident at Caulfield hotel Zagames.
After a night drinking at what is now Marvel Stadium, Greene and a mate, Charles Haley, got into fight with a security controller at Zagames.
Greene was arrested - and subsequently fined $2500 for his involvement in the brawl - and taken to Prahran police station, the same station he was taken to after the drink-driving episode.
Loyalty to a mate - which is an age-old excuse for finding trouble - lured him into the fight, which started after Greene and Haley were refused service for being too drunk.
Greene shakes his head at his stupidity.
"It was stupid, no need for it, I was just being a d---head, really. I didn't provoke it, he did, and then I bit back, yeah,'' he said.
It was the 6am phone call to mum from the police station that was, he said, one of the turning points of his life.
"It was pretty bad. I didn't say much on the phone. I said, 'Mum, I've mucked up, you've got to come and pick me up'. She was, like, 'Oh no, what have you done?' I said I'll tell you when you get here.''
Police had confiscated his belongings, including his clothes, so when mum arrived he was at the police counter wearing "one those white suits from Breaking Bad''. His clothes came home, he said, a year later.
"In the car, I told mum what happened and she was crying ... the embarrassment she would've felt, that was the worst thing. She was devastated.''
It was made worse when news crews and media were out the front of the house the next day.
The Giants weren't pleased, either. He was fined $5000 and suspended for five weeks.
"I was pretty upset, being on the verge of tears when I had to say sorry to the boys,'' he said.
"The leadership group called me in, told me my punishment. I was pretty angry and upset. Heath Shaw spoke to me one-on-one because he's been the same, not in the same situation, but having incurred a similar punishment. He told me, 'The boys love ya, you mean a lot to the team, you've just got to learn from it, it's where you must grow up'.
"I haven't done anything wrong since. I run away from it these days.''
He says he doesn't have an alcohol problem, but part of the outcome with GWS was he attend alcohol counselling. It's fair to say, the counsellor didn't leave an impression.
"He was a counsellor, but I can't say I listened to him much. Look, I couldn't even tell you his name. I don't believe in that stuff. I knew myself what I had to do and what I did wrong. I'd rather listen to my mum, she's better at that stuff rather than counsellors. I care about what mum says.''
Hand on heart, you been a good boy?
"I just walk away if something's going to happen, you don't want to go through that again.'' he said.
"If I had another incident now, they'd get rid of me for sure, they'd have to. If that happened, it would mean my dream is over.''
Teammate, friend and captain, Callan Ward, passed judgment on Greene, which for a time threatened the friendship.
"We were close, then he was off me for a bit,'' Ward said. "He didn't give me much for a while. But he grew up. We had a conversation about it. I remember I said to him: 'You were off me for a bit, after we suspended you'.''
Greene: "Yeah, at the time, I didn't understand it, but I went away, thought about it, and thought there's no point why I shouldn't be myself again.''
Perceptions hurt. Greene is loved at the club, by teammates and staff, but the same affection is not extended externally.
"I don't think some people like me, there's been a few incidents, like the spitting incident last year,'' he said.
Playing against Richmond in Round 14, footage captured Greene spitting at opponent Anthony Miles. Greene accepted the $1500 fine but denied intent.
"I didn't intend to spit on, I was spitting in his direction. That's 100 per cent,'' Greene said.
"I think people think I'm a kind of a lad. I do care to an extent what people think of me, you want to be perceived in a way about how you go about your footy and life in a good manner and I'd like be perceived like that.''
After punctuated off-field life, Greene's football is thriving.
Ward says since the Zagames brawl, Greene has matured as footballer and person.
"He's come a long, long, long way,'' he said. "The natural progression of a footballer and as a person is you mature at 20, 21 and I think that's what he's done.
"He was young and loved to have a good time, but he understood he needed to change.
"I've had conversations with him, the whole leadership, his manager Paul Connors had conversations, I'm sure his parents have, and it's a great credit to him. He knew he couldn't keep going the way he was.
"As a bloke, he's one of the most caring you'd meet. One of the reasons which got him trouble was his loyalty to his mates. He always looks after the people he cares about.''