Fixed Until It’s Broken – The AFL Score Review

I woke up this morning with one thing on my mind.


However, once that need was sated, I found myself looking back at the Grand Final rematch between the Lions and Magpies that saw the premiers once again get their hand raised.

It wasn’t the prettiest game, and there were dozens of errors throughout the contest that resulted in turnovers and chances to score. However, the biggest error came not from a player, a coach, or even an umpire.

No, the biggest error came from a person sitting apart from the action, reviewing footage in an attempt to ensure we get the correct decision made.

It was the person in charge of the score review that screwed up in this one, and I reckon the Brisbane Lions have every right to feel a bit pissed off about it.

In a see-sawing game, the scores were close when this incident occurred. It was under a goal the difference and Collingwood starting to build momentum. The ball was hacked forward and Brody Mihocek, who lurched at the footy, grabbing at it as it crossed the goal line between the big and little posts. It looked like a clear behind to me – I didn’t think he controlled the footy.

Then came the line from the goal umpire.

“I think it’s a mark but I just want to check it was controlled before crossing the line.”

Or words to that effect, anyway.

I couldn’t believe he thought it was a mark, but no probs… the score review would see his error and correct it. That’s its job, after all.

And so, the score review kicked into action, slowing down the footage, looking at it from different angles, trying to decipher whether the ball had crossed the line before Mihocek controlled it.

But it seemed that whoever was rolling the footage back and forth forgot that there was more to taking a mark than to look at where the first contact with the footy was made. You have to control it.

And the big problem here was that at no stage did Mihocek control the footy, at all. He attempted to mark it on his chest, it slipped through his arms, onto his legs, and at one point hit the ground between his legs before it was awarded a mark by the score review work experience kid.

It wasn’t awarded a mark by the field umpire – the bloke in charge of things like that. No, but some dude watching a replay who sounded like he came straight from work at Krusty Burger thought it was a mark, so it was paid.

It was a massive fail for the score review process.

Throw it on the pile with the others, I guess..

Mihocek took his kick, slotted his second goal of the quarter, and the Pies were away. And you know what? The way they played from that point on, the controversial review may not have mattered too much in terms of the result – they were the better team on the night. However, that does not excuse a monumental error from the score review system that is in place to make sure these types of moments don’t occur.

We are now at the stage where goal umpires are petrified to make a call. They are calling for score reviews on shots at goal that have clearly gone through the big sticks, but “I just want to be sure”.

Guys… the goal is going to reviewed on the way back to the centre, anyway. If you think it’s a goal, call it a goal and let the Krusty Burger bloke do his job as the teams setup in the middle.

The AFL has been banging on about the game being quicker for years. They have introduced rules to speed up game play (no waiting after a goal is signalled to kick the ball in, the player doesn’t need to kick the ball to himself in the goal square before playing on, the “stand” rule to allow players to walk around the player on the mark) and yet., here we are with the umpires now so in fear for the jobs, that they flat out refuse to back their judgement and effectively stop the game in its tracks.

Some of the early score reviews in this game were head shakers. One review – one glance at the review indicated it was a goal, but off we went to conduct a thorough analysis and watch the ball go through for a goal six or seven times before making a decision. It holds the game up, kills momentum, and does precisely what the AFL didn’t want at one stage – it slows the game down.

And so, where are we at with score reviews?

What can be done to fix it?

Whatever is decided, it is vital the league, the ARC, and whoever else is looking at implementing technology gets it absolutely correct. We cannot have Grand Final rematches, or heaven forbid, a Grand Final, hinging on some bloke making a call on a mark, when he is evidently looking at just a part of the footage and is somehow missing that the ball spilled to the ground.

The game deserves better.

They have fixed this aspect of the game until it has become broken. My fear is that they’ll just break it some more, much the same way as they have broken the confidence of goal umpires.

I wish we could clone David Rodan.


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