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08 September 2021

Congratulations to Perth and WA for being named host of this year's AFL grand final.

It is a gift to the great football State in the west, which has claimed so many premierships itself in the modern era.

The nation will watch captivated (and some of us Melburnians a little envious).

In Victoria, many of us long to be able to go to the footy or even the pub or a mate's barbie to watch the "granny".

For Melbourne Football Club supporters, the possibility of a premiership not being played or won at the MCG will be bittersweet, if not heartbreaking, after 57 years in the wilderness.

Much of the finals' news fodder has centred on Greater Western Sydney Giants player Toby Greene's suspension for bumping into umpire Matt Stevic during the elimination final against Sydney.

That Greene is a great player is not up for argument but in bumping veteran umpire Stevic, he showed straight-up disrespect and was rightly given a three-match ban for his actions.

The AFL tribunal said Greene's "ump bump" was intentional conduct that was "disrespectful, demonstrative and aggressive".

The AFL sent a clear message about its position on the incident. It wanted Greene to get six weeks.

The tribunal handed down three, with the AFL considering an appeal of what it thought was too lenient a decision.

We talk so much about footy in Australia. While much of it is good, it takes a dark turn when there is disrespect on the field, whether it be to umpires, between players or in the crowd.

The community and the AFL rightly have serious concerns that the latest Greene wrongdoing will have ramifications at the grassroots level.

Interfering with an umpire is never tolerated but there are worries about copycat incidents in community and junior footy that need to be addressed.

The trickle-down effect of young people seeing a favourite, celebrated player like Greene show disrespect to an umpire on the national stage is that they think it's OK to do it in their own games and lives.

As the number of girls and women taking up footy swells, there is an ever-increasing need for umpires in grassroots AFL.

For young people keen on getting involved in footy as an umpire, the Greene incident is hardly rolling out the red carpet.

We may not always like the umpire's decision, but we have to respect it.

This is as true in life as in sport. Things don't always go our way whether we like it or not.

When I lost the 2019 Federal election as Opposition leader to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, it was bloody hard to accept but you've got to respect the outcome.

I had to look myself in the mirror and take it on the chin.

It was a humbling moment and I felt like I'd let so many people down.

I'm far from perfect but I accepted the loss on the night because that's what this country is about.

I respected the rule of democracy in Australia that the people had made their choice and I had to live with it.

Losing an election is not easy but none did it so badly as former US president Donald Trump, who did the equivalent of the "ump bump" to US democracy.

The utter chaos that ensued when he lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden was out of this world.

His rejection of the election result was riddled with misinformation and allegations of voter fraud so ridiculous there are now legal actions flying around the US as a direct result.

As well as claims the election was stolen from him, Trump also incited unrest when he encouraged his supporters to march on Capitol Hill.

Then, as riots took place in the capital, Trump stayed true to his bizarre course, tweeting about the election being stolen as he urged misguided followers to go home.

His behaviour and that of many his supporters was nothing short of anti-democratic, even if in the end he didn't wield the power that he thought he had and Biden took office.

Many of our fellow Australians are doing it hard at the moment.

Our lives have become a lot smaller as we isolate to keep one another safe.

But life will go on and we will again each be faced with accepting what has passed, whether it be in our personal lives, at work or on the field.

In the meantime, it was heartening to see Greene apologise and show remorse.

His team is out of the finals and he will miss a few games when the season proper starts up again in 2022.

Hopefully for his young fans, having witnessed a terrible lesson from their hero, they will also absorb the good lesson of Greene taking his penalty on the chin.

Because in life, as in sport, the umpire's ruling is final.

This opinion piece was first published in The West Australian on Wednesday, 1 September 2021.