Keith Southby GreigMBE (born 23 October 1951) is a former Australian rules footballer who represented North Melbourne in the Victorian Football League (VFL) during the 1970s and 1980s. Red-haired and pale-skinned, Greig was renowned for his poise and ball handling skills. He could also take spectacular high marks. Greig played for much of his career on the wing, but in later years often played at half back.
Grieg played his junior football for Brunswick in the Victorian Football Association, and in 1968 he won the Gillon Medal as the best and fairest in the VFA Thirds competition. He was recruited to the VFL by North Melbourne, and at the age of 19. From the beginning his technical brilliance did not go unnoticed, and he was picked for his first State Representative game after only having played nine senior VFL matches. Greig went on to represent the Big V 12 more times over his career, and was state captain in 1978.
In 1973, he beat Richmond's Kevin Bartlett to win the Brownlow Medal with 27 votes. In 1974, he became only the eighth player in VFL history to win the Brownlow twice, again with 27 votes, and the fifth player to win it back-to-back. North made it to the 1974 VFL Grand Final, only their second appearance in a Grand Final. Unfortunately they would lose to Richmond, but Greig was one of North's best players.
The following year, North finally broke through for their first VFL premiership and again, Greig was among North's best players. Earlier in the year, he had been awarded membership of the Order of the British Empire for his services to football. With the retirement of Barry Davis, Greig was appointed club captain at the start of the 1976 VFL season. But it was a position he did not relish, and he resigned from the captaincy at the end of 1979, partly as a result of the relationship break down with coach Ron Barassi.
In Round 6 of the 1977 VFL season against Richmond, Greig injured his right knee in a collision. After six weeks on the sidelines, he played against Hawthorn but broke down the following week. Greig underwent surgery to repair the ligaments in the knee in July and subsequently missed out on the 1977 premiership. He was named an All-Australian in 1983.
To many outside observers, the partnership between Greig as captain and coach Ron Barassi during the 1970s was among the best in the league. But in 2004, Greig revealed in an interview that the relationship became so strained that at the end of 1979 he resigned the captaincy and came close to leaving the club. Although Barassi was known for saying things he later regretted when in an angry mood, one particular insult hurt Greig deeply: "If it wasn't for football you'd be nothing but a shit plumber". (Greig worked as a plumber at a time when footballers had occupations outside of football).
It was not until a meeting at club secretary Ron Joseph's office had been arranged that an agreement between the now ex-captain and coach was reached. As Greig recalled:
I told Barassi if he left me alone and let me do my own thing we would be OK. And that's what happened – Barass didn't speak to me for the entire 1980 season and consequently I won the best-and-fairest that year. I had been with him for seven years but by the end of '79 I had become tired of his ways.
Fortunately, Greig and Barassi appeared to be reconciled:
Barassi told me later that the 'shit plumber' remark was the worst thing he'd said in footy. We were never good mates, never been close, but we get along OK now. I even went to his testimonial last year, so we're fine now.
In 1992 Greig returned to North Melbourne as chairman of selectors. He is a life member of North Melbourne, and was selected in the AFL Team of the Century as a wingman. In 1996 Greig was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame. He was also named on the wing in North Melbourne's Team of the Century.