The AFL’s crackdown on dissent continued to raise eyebrows during the Western Bulldogs’ 48-point win over Collingwood on Friday night.
Two incidents in particular left several of the game’s biggest names dishing out some hard-hitting criticism to the AFL.
Bulldogs young gun Buku Khamis was the first player to concede a 50-metre penalty when he raised his arms at the umpire after not receiving a free kick when edged out of a marking contest.
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“Come off it. That’s not 50 meters,” said Richmond legend Matthew Richardson in commentary for Seven.
“You have to pay them all then. It’s just ridiculous.
“I feel for them at times. This is an emotional game. They are not robots.”
But it was a decision to ping Collingwood’s Jordan De Goey for the same offense as Khamis in the fourth quarter that had many viewers and pundits raising their own arms.
In De Goey’s example, the Collingwood forward raised his arms for a brief moment before quickly lowering them.
St Kilda great Leigh Montagna said De Goey showed enough restraint to avoid the hefty penalty.
“That’s what we want to see from players – restraint – and he did bring it back to himself, he did exactly what we wanted with this rule and yet it’s still paid 50,” Montagna said on Fox Footy.
“For five weeks we haven’t seen them being paid at all so that is the confusion. Why all of a sudden? There was a big focus after round three, then it drifted away.”
Meanwhile, Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall agreed that De Goey’s example was stiff, but said it was hard to fault the umpires based on the previous set.
“I thought De Goey in particular was a little bit stiff because he was about to go off and then literally harnessed himself back in and then actually stopped but you could see initially he was about to throw the arms up,” Dunstall said.
“If you are going to make that much of an effort to pull yourself back, I think you’re entitled to get a little bit of latitude.
“This is where it is really, really difficult.
“They’re giving instructions to the umpires so let’s not be hard on them either. If you see the arms go up, that is some form of dissent but it’s hard to expect players to completely turn off the emotion as soon as the whistle goes .”
The AFL’s crackdown on dissent against umpires was brought in at the start of the season.
AFL general manager of football Brad Scott has on several occasions throughout the season backed the stance, while also encouraging umpires to continue pulling up players for behavior that falls below the standard set.
“It is incumbent on us at the elite level to set the standards of behavior for all levels of the game,” Scott said in April.
“We have fallen short as a football community and dissent towards umpires during matches has become an issue at all levels of the game, particularly at the community level where we are 6000 umpires short.
“Respect towards umpires and penalizing players for showing dissent has strong support from everyone in football – including presidents, CEOs, coaches and football managers.
“Our message to players is that when an umpire pays a free kick, accept it and move on, and our message to umpires is we encourage you to continue to pay free kicks or 50m penalties where players have shown dissent.”
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