Carlton coach Michael Malthouse has bitterly condemned umpiring, in the wake of Carlton's narrow loss to Hawthorn, claiming there had been an apparent abandonment or reinterpretation of the dropping-the-ball rule.
The Blues were also furious – during the game and afterwards – that Hawthorn medical staff were on the ground, wearing dark outfits similar to Carlton's. So confused where they that Carlton players twice kicked to the officials.
Carlton team manager Shane O'Sullivan approached the emergency umpire on the bench about the Hawthorn officials during a quarter break. Ground manager Tess McManus intervened to tell O'Sullivan that she had already noted the incidents and the matter would be taken up by the AFL. O'Sullivan was seemingly not pleased that this would not stop the matter recurring during the match.
These controversies added insult to injuries for the Blues. Captain Marc Murphy suffering a fractured cheekbone in a clash with opposing captain Luke Hodge. He was substituted out of the game and taken to hospital.
"You lose your captain against a side like this, of course it has an impact. I don't think we lost the game because of that (but) it certainly didn't help. I would have liked the free-kick for it. I am sure he would have liked the free-kick for it," Malthouse said.
"We squared them off nearly everywhere; free-kick count we didn't, metres we were skewiff and the scoreboard but everywhere else I thought we did pretty well.
"I am sure it is an accident. But you know the rules, it is a free-kick . . . I would not dare suggest it is a report, because I don't think it is, but it is a free-kick.
"Have I missed something recently? I know I have missed the tackling rule, totally missed the tackling rule. That 12 months out has clearly had such an impact that you can tackle and dispossess and it is is now called play-on, that is something I have totally missed in the 12 months out I had commentating.
"(It is something) which I didn't overly see last year but that is a factor and it has been a factor against us for a few weeks now. We pride ourselves on our tackling and dispossession and the rule, I am sure, said something about 'if you don't dispose of the ball correctly, it is incorrect disposal'. Well, I guess we are a little bit bamboozled by that."
Malthouse said he could name a dozen incidents where such free-kicks had not been paid. The Blues trailed the free-kick count by 14-4 after half-time, including a run of 11 consecutive free-kicks for Hawthorn. Notably Jeff Garlett was not paid a free for interference or high contact in a marking contest in front of goal late in the game.
Of the 14-4 free-kick count after half-time, Malthouse said: "That says something, doesn't it? I don't know what it says, but it says 14-4."
Tough midfielder Mitch Robinson injured a shoulder or scapula and was hampered throughout the second half of the match, barely able to use his left arm, but the club said they did not believe he had suffered a fracture.
Malthouse said of his player's effort to remain on the ground: "You don't get medals for bravery in football. You just get out there and do it."
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said he had reinforced to his team at three-quarter time that Carlton was "a tough team to hold for four quarters" and that the Hawks needed to keep persevering.
He praised key forwards Jarryd Roughead and Lance Franklin – who booted eight goals between them and were in stark contrast to the output from the Carlton key forwards – for hitting the scoreboard despite not having good games.