COLLINGWOOD president Eddie McGuire has implored the AFL to this week definitively clarify its officiating policies, particularly for score reviews, in time for the season's three most important matches.
McGuire's call for a thorough briefing from the AFL's umpires director Jeff Gieschen and football operations chief Adrian Anderson comes in the wake of his team contentiously having a goal disallowed during its semi-final win against West Coast last night.
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Magpies forward Andrew Krakouer benefited from Eagle Andrew Embley's failed attempt to rush a behind to snap a first-quarter goal from close range. About 25 seconds after the goal was signalled a section of the MCG crowd began jeering after a scoreboard replay seemingly depicted Embley's handball crossing the goal-line before it was intercepted by Collingwood's Tyson Goldsack. It was not until about 45 seconds after Krakouer's goal was confirmed - as the presiding field umpire was preparing to restart play in the centre - that the duty score-review official intervened.
While footage from one ground-level camera seemed to indicate the ball had crossed the line, longer-range footage taken from a camera high in the Southern Stand was more ambiguous. Those two main footage excerpts were from cameras unaligned to the goals, whereas directly on the goal line there was both a goal umpire and a boundary umpire on either side of Goldsack as he collected the ball.
Under AFL rules the ball remains in play until it either hits a post or the entire ball is behind the outer edge of the line. Furthermore, score-review officials are instructed to only overturn a decision if the footage is conclusive. Channel Seven commentator Luke Darcy declared he was therefore "staggered" at the decision to strip the Magpies of a goal.
Score-review officials are empowered to instigate reviews, rather than just act at the behest of on-field umpires as typically occurs, and have done so on at least five times previously this season. The Krakouer incident was, however, seemingly the first instance of a scoring decision being overturned without any of the on-field umpires expressing doubt.
McGuire, a fervent campaigner for more cameras to bolster the score-review system (which was introduced the day before the season began after a NAB Cup trial), acknowledged the decision was "a one-centimetre call" but was astonished it culminated in the on-field umpires being overruled.
"Unless the score reviewer had X-ray vision last night there was no way known that he could've overturned it, because if the ball had been even just touching the line [obscured by the goalpost the goal should have stood]," he told The Age.
"I don't mind it if it's blatantly [wrong], that it bounced off the post or whatever, but they don't have the technology in place to make a call when you've got a boundary umpire and a goal umpire standing virtually on top of it [saying the opposite]. Neither of them even brought it up in discussions, that 'Gee, did it [stay in play] or didn't it?'. They were quite definitive about the whole thing.
"For them to go to an inconclusive piece of vision and then overrule is a massive step."
The AFL has endorsed the score-review official's action in instigating the review but is yet to give its verdict on whether his subsequent decision was correct too. McGuire is keenly anticipating the latter.
"It could have been different obviously, if we'd have got done by a point . . . but you can't be shifting the line on what is the drop-dead call on this. If the drop-dead call is there's irrefutable proof the umpire's got it wrong then that's fair enough. But I thought we'd gone mid season to the umpire's call has to be shown to be wrong, rather than to 'We'll go with the video and disregard the umpires'," the Collingwood president said.
"Forget about the Krakouer thing, we just need to know for the next two weeks. If it is [official precedent], then we have to go to a position where we stop the game and check every goal."
McGuire said his main priority was for consistency in officiating across this weekend's two preliminary finals and in the grand final the following weekend.
"OK, they've made a blue but let's not make that a federal offence and get all uptight - but let's get it right for the last two weeks. I'd love this week for the AFL - Jeff Gieschen and Adrian (Anderson) - to come out and say 'Right guys, this is how we're going to have ducking of the head [adjudicated], this is how we're going to have marking contests, this is what we're going to do with the video review, so that everybody knows and everyone's clear. I think that'd be a really good thing."