They Let The Game Down

It was bound to happen.

After years of seeing multiple issues with the score review system, it turned out the lack of referral to the highly-flawed system was the thing that finally cost a team a final.

Oh, but it didn’t cost a team a final, I hear you think. Didn’t know I was a clairvoyant, did you?

Yes, it did cost a team a final, because the Adelaide Crows won’t even get a chance to compete in September as a result of a mistake that the score review, employed properly, could have rectified.

Employed properly… now there’s a term that resonates, right? Because you could argue that the score review has been a lemon right from the outset and has never been employed properly at all.

The screw up has also robbed St Kilda of a certain finals berth, as well, putting them in danger of dropping out in the last week of the home and away season, despite winning against Geelong this week.

A pretty sizeable cock up, isn’t it?

As with most things the AFL implements, the score review system was a rushed, bush league attempt to be a world-class sport. If you are the sort that casts an eye over sport from all over the world, you would see how meticulous other codes are when it comes to scoring. Play is held up, video reviews are pawed over in a granular fashion, and officials consult to make sure they’ve got it right before the score is declared legitimate. And the footage used leaves no doubt.

And us?

Well, we have this grainy footage that looks like it is shot on my old Nokia that more than often leads to “insufficient evidence” to either confirm or deny the umpire’s guesswork.

“I believe it was touched, but I just want to check…”

“I believe it was a goal but I just want to make sure the ball didn’t hit the post…”

Minutes pass, multiple angles are shown…

“There is insufficient evidence to overturn the umpire’s decision…”

The AFL has been treating its fans and the sport, itself, like a casual acquaintance over the last few years. As long as things are okay on the surface – memberships up, TV viewership up – then all is well. They have ignored the issues that have lurked under the glossy surface of the game. They have watered down the physicality, they have empowered umpires to penalise players for minor infractions, and they have taken a “near enough is good enough” approach with the way they review scores.

But near enough is nowhere near good enough. And it as not good enough in this game, in particular.

It’s interesting – a comment from the wonderful Matt Zurbo in our Facebook Footy Group (good discussion in there, if you haven’t joined) pointed out that the umpire’s word and decision should be final. In essence, he is absolutely right – it should be, but the AFL has now conditioned us to believe it isn’t, and it has conditioned the umpires to believe they’re likely in the wrong, as well.

“I believe the ball was touched, but I just want to check…”

Matt’s comment indicated that the score review was not part of the game, as we’ve come to know it. It is something that has been imposed on the game by a league desperate to look progressive but ill-equipped to do it correctly. It is not part of the fabric of the game where the umpire’s word was gospel – it is from an entirely different blanket.

Can anyone tell me the rule about when score reviews are actioned? We are told that all goals are reviewed, and when an umpire requests it, there can also be a review. But what about when a behind is called and there is conjecture? Is that usually reviewed? Do they look at it? I’ve seen them pause the game to deliberate whether a shot at goal was out on the full or a behind, but this one they let go?

Ben Keays was busy celebrating. The fans behind the goals had no doubt that it went through – they were in raptures. The score review would have awarded this a goal…

However, in the one instance the umpire has the fortitude to make a decisive call, the wrong call was made, the score was not reviewed, and a team fell out of contention as a result.

Adelaide were all over the Swans like a cheap suit in the final quarter. Much of their demise was their own doing, playing poor footy in the first half and kicking 4.8 in the last quarter, with several shots not making the distance, as well. However, that does not excuse an incredible lack of diligence from the league, its rules, and those in charge.

The score reviewed failed.

How often have we heard people wonder out loud that “we wouldn’t want to see this happen in a final”?

It could, and this weekend was the absolute proof of this.

Could it happen in a Grand Final?

Yeah… it could, and I won’t be sitting here taking a shot at a goal umpire if and when it does.

The failsafe is the score review. It is there to rectify errors and protect the integrity of scoring. For whatever reason – be it that play recommenced immediately, that an umpire did not call for a review, or that someone just flat-out screwed up – the Adelaide Crows are now out of contention and the footy world has lost a little more faith in Australia’s game. Some are completely jaded.

In a week where millions tuned into the Matildas’ game against England and lamented a lost opportunity, this type of half-arsed bullshit from the Australian Football Bush League is an embarrassment. Supporters bleed for their clubs, but when they entrust the governance of the game to a group of people that do things by halves, where do they turn?


That’s where they turn. They turn away.

Am I being overly dramatic about the situation? Possibly. Maybe ask an Adelaide fan whether they think the aftermath is a little overly dramatic.

Of course, the AFL will issue their standard apology to the Crows and their supporters as though it changes anything. A bandaid on a bullet wound. They’ll dust themselves off, defend their shitty score review practice and move on to the next thing they’ll inevitably screw up.

Rinse and repeat.

They designed this system. They rushed it into operation and neglected to invest in it further, meaning the whens and hows of its ooperation were never really fleshed out. It was a “fly by the seat of your pants” operation from the get go.

Those rhings rarely end well.

And once again, it’s the game and the supporters… and, this time, the Adelaide Crows, that suffer.

If the AFL can’t get this right, and they’ve never had it right, they could probably just do without the score review system. It has created as many issues as it has rectified.

It’s a shame it took something like this to bring it the attention it should have been afforded much earlier.



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