Grand final bloopers left AFL no choice
'Tom Hawkins' 2009 grand final shot that shaved the goal post but was given a goal went perilously close to costing St Kilda a premiership.' Photo: Joe Armao
THE AFL had no choice but to introduce video assistance for scoring decisions after two controversies over goals in the past three grand finals.
In 2009, Tom Hawkins' shot that shaved the goal post but was given a goal went perilously close - given the margin was only six points in Geelong's favour until after the final siren - to costing St Kilda a premiership.
Last year, a similar shot from Collingwood's Sharrod Wellingham against the Cats, proved academic.
The added safeguards, though, are something of a double-edged sword and the AFL is starting to discover the depth of the Pandora's box it may have opened.
The ''poster'' scenarios from those grand finals are the obvious examples of the worth of the new system. They're also only the tip of the iceberg.
In the 22 scoring decisions referred to video so far, only about half have concerned balls hitting the post. The rest have been about shots potentially touched or miscellaneous ''others''.
That was the category under which Jarryd Blair's match-winning goal on Anzac Day fell, given it was well clear of post and opposition hands. But was it clear of Blair's own hand after his kick off the ground? The video on The Age website showed it may indeed have brushed the Magpie's hand, despite his protestations yesterday.
In any case, the apparently legitimate goal by Tyson Goldsack overturned after a review seemed to even out the ledger. But as transparent as the AFL was yesterday in explaining the review process and hopefully soothing the concerns of Collingwood coach Nathan Buckley and Richmond's Damien Hardwick, who jumped into the debate, another issue has emerged.
Umpires director Jeff Gieschen conceded yesterday on SEN that the review of the Blair decision did not look at any potential contact with the player's hand after the ball had been kicked - a base that should have been covered. The AFL freely concedes the process is far from perfect, and that the video footage is of assistance in only about half the cases referred. That's going to remain the case while the technology consists only of a couple of camera angles that are used entirely at the discretion of the broadcaster.
Can the AFL pressure the broadcaster to install cameras in the goal posts or come up with an equivalent of cricket's Hawk-Eye or Hot Spot? At a cost around $10,000 a camera, and there are eight posts on a ground, don't hold your breath on the former. And touches of fingers on a ball up to 30 metres from goal don't make identification techniques nearly as useful as within the confines of a 20-metre cricket pitch.
What it can do, however, is standardise a procedure of checks on a disputed score. In the case of the Blair goal, the Goldsack non-goal, or a host of other examples, it might have been three or four questions, such as: was the ball kicked by an attacking player? Was it touched by any player (including the player who kicked it)? Did the ball touch any of the posts? And did it cross the scoring line fully?
The trial and (hopefully less) error will continue. But you can only keep fingers crossed it's all bedded down a little more firmly than at present when next a player in a grand final has a snap that may or may not have grazed a goal post.