Footy figures are up in arms about the officiating of the deliberate out of bounds rule, which was thrust into the spotlight during Richmond’s thrilling preliminary win over Port Adelaide on Friday night.
The Tigers advanced to their third grand final in four years with a nailbiting 6.10 (46) to 6.4 (40) win over the Power but it doesn’t take much for AFL fans to find something to complain about.
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With Port down by four in the final term, Power star Hamish Hartlett was pinged for deliberately knocking the ball out of bounds and Kane Lambert took advantage of the resulting free kick to nail his round-the-body snap and extend Richmond’s lead to 10.
Under pressure in the Tigers’ forward pocket, Hartlett shovelled the ball over the boundary line and the umpire had no option but to pay a free.
“Was it deliberate? You bet it was. Great call by the umpire,” Brian Taylor said in commentary for Channel 7.
“He (Hartlett) had no other intention and I think that’s a pretty obvious decision.”
However, the interpretation of the deliberate out of bounds rule at Adelaide Oval left plenty mystified as to why the umpires were suddenly cracking down in the third-last game of the season.
The officials penalised players six times for the infringement last night, compared to 155 offences in the previous 159 games this season.
Former Crows coach Graham Cornes — father of Port legends Kane and Chad — was one of many in the game to voice their frustration.
“On a night when goals are gold how can we tolerate ridiculous deliberate of bounds interpretations?” he wrote on Twitter.
“Who has given umpires this mandate? Both teams were courageous but this modern game needs a serious overview.”
Former umpires boss Peter Schwab also hit out. “No idea by umpire. To pay DOB. Tough game and we get that,” he tweeted.
Richmond premiership player Xavier Ellis suggested the players weren’t being shown enough leniency, tweeting: “Last person to touch it – Free Kick. Personally hate it!!!”
Ex-Gold Coast Suns player Pearce Hanley added in a since-deleted tweet: “Was that deliberate out of bounds the worst umpiring call of the year or is that just me.”
Footy reporter Sam McClure said the problem with this aspect of officiating has been brewing for too long and was always going to boil over at some point.
“We’ve been ignoring the farce that is the deliberate out of rule for years now,” he wrote on Twitter. “And here we are.”
Channel 7 journalist Andrew McCormack said: “They’ve lost the plot with deliberate out of bounds. Dead set.”
Aussie comedian Dave Hughes said Port star Tom Rockliff could have made a play for the Sherrin to prevent it going out, so Hartlett shouldn’t have been punished.
“On reflection, it was just a bad decision. Rockliff was right there. He chose not to go at ball, so it went out of bounds. That’s allowed. And yes it may have cost Port the game,” Hughes said.
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Seven AFL reporter Tom Browne defended the umpires and warned against overreacting after one game, but was still surprised at the crackdown.
“I was surprised by the deliberate interpretation last night, and don’t know why it was more strict on the night (almost rule of the week stuff), but felt it was consistent all night,” Browne tweeted.
“It’s a good rule. So I don’t think it’s fair to use one outlier game to argue the rule is a disaster or anything like that. Many aspects of umpiring AFL are partly or largely subjective. This is one of them.
“I think the umpires did a pretty good job and didn’t have a massive bearing on the outcome.”
COACHES WEIGH IN
The coaches weren’t willing to play the blame game, sympathising with the umpires for doing a difficult job in a high pressure situation.
“It’s a difficult one. The game is really hard to adjudicate with those ones,” Richmond mentor Damien Hardwick said.
“I think the consistency level, if it is we’re happy with it once again, as long as it is consistent, we will play with whatever rules are out there.
“There’s probably a couple in the conditions that were a bit tough, but it’s a high pressure game. The umpires are under high pressure as well. I thought they did a pretty good job on the night.”
Port coach Ken Hinkley refused to pin his side’s woes on the Hartlett call or the rule interpretation throughout the game.
“It doesn’t matter. Umpires paid it as deliberate out of bounds, I’m not going to judge the umpires. It’s a high pressure game for them too,” Hinkley said.
“It hurts, but we lost the game and it wasn’t one play or one bit of the play. I never sit there and get too focused on one decision.
“Everyone will because it was in the last quarter and they kick a goal from it and it’s a six-point margin. But not for me, it’s a hard game to umpire.”