Are we talking about tough humans or are we talking about tough footballers??
Luke Hodge is a tough dude and probable courageous but he goes to water when he has an opponent and can't handle a tag. He plays his best football (in fact most of the time his only good football) when he's left alone. Put some pressure on him or give him someone other than space to worry about and he's anonymous.
Andrew Swallow is a tough footballer. Jude Bolton is a tough footballer. Luke Ball is a tough footballer. Lenny Hayes, Alan Toovey, Max Rooke, Jordie McKenzie, etc, etc, etc. These guys are tough footballers.
Absolute BS mate,
Hodge is close checked every game. No coach lets him run free these days.
He gets touched up every now and then but will usually beat a tag. You don't know this though because you dont watch Hawthorn.
Not just a Nick Maxwell thing, but I love how some fans take one isolated incident (eg. the McGinnity hit) and embellish it into a career-long, consistent pattern of bad behaviour. Darren Milburn has suffered the same fate since knocking out Stephen Silvagni a decade ago. Labelled for life as a "sniper" and a "dog", when he's never been involved in anything nearly as untoward since that regretable hit on SOS.
I'm with you here ..one incident in a career should not define a players reputation for life.
As for the OP...being tough is not about charging into players with elbows and shoulders when they open and unprotected ...it's standing or jumping in front of a charging forward...or running back for a mark with your eyes on the ball.... knowing the hit is coming.
That is my definition of tough.