THE three Carlton players involved in public criticism of umpires have been stung $2500 by the AFL, but the decision that sparked most of their ire was deemed to be wrong.
Injured trio Marc Murphy, Jeremy Laidler and Jarrad Waite were fined after an AFL investigation ended yesterday, all for taking to Twitter during the Carlton-West Coast match at Subiaco last weekend. Coach Brett Ratten was given a formal warning for his comment in a press conference about latent bias against teams visiting Subiaco.
''What can you say? We come here knowing that is the lay of the land,'' Ratten had said in response to a journalist's question.
But the AFL umpiring department's review of the most controversial decision, a holding-the-ball adjudication against Aaron Joseph that handed West Coast a goal, found that the umpire concerned had made an error.
''Yes, Joseph did dive on the ball,'' umpiring head Jeff Gieschen told the AFL website yesterday. ''You see him slide in, but he does actually handball the ball. When he handballed the ball away, it was trapped by [West Coast's Jack] Darling, [Michael] Jameson, a number of other players, from that point it was going nowhere. We would have preferred the umpire just blow his whistle and ball the ball up.''
Gieschen said Joseph had been ''harshly treated'', but added the league rules required players who chose to dive on the football to immediately get the ball out. ''We've got to move away from saying 'it's very courageous' and 'it's the essence of the game','' he told the website. ''There are other options.''
The AFL asked Carlton to explain the comments earlier this week and yesterday took into account the fact the players had apologised.
AFL general manager football operations Adrian Anderson said a strong stance was required on criticism of umpires.
''The AFL will not tolerate public denigration or humiliation of umpires as we continue to face very real problems with the retention of umpires throughout Australia. The Sanders Report into umpiring highlighted the need for the AFL to have a zero tolerance approach to criticism of umpires,'' he said.
''A player's use of social media to make comments around umpiring will be subject to the AFL's rules in exactly the same way as comments made in a formal interview or any other media environment, as the AFL competition must continue to set a positive example on conduct towards umpires.''
Gieschen also reached a conclusion on the incredible point kicked by West Coast's Nic Naitanui in the game. Some have suggested Naitanui had broken the rules by moving up to 35 metres in control of the ball without bouncing it, prior to his kick for a behind. But Gieschen said the review found Naitanui momentarily lost control of the ball.