The AFL has played down a pre-game incident during round two in which Mick Malthouse confronted a senior umpire about a costly and contentious free kick he had awarded in 2013 against the Blues.
Malthouse strongly reminded umpire Matt Stevic that he had been in the wrong in awarding a free kick during the first quarter of the round-22 Essendon-Carlton game, which resulted in a Bombers goal. Essendon won the match – James Hird's last for the season as coach – by six points.
Stevic was visiting the Carlton rooms about one hour before the MCG clash with Richmond, a tradition now encouraged by the AFL in the absence of any after-match function involving clubs and umpires.
The senior umpire referred the reportedly animated conversation to umpires coach Brian Sheehan and after the game to umpires boss Wayne Campbell. Several in the rooms, including at least one senior Carlton player, witnessed the exchange in which Stevic stood his ground and conceded he had erred and that the decision could have cost him a role in the 2013 grand final.
While the AFL's football boss Mark Evans was made aware of the incident on Monday, he said that neither he nor Campbell would be pursuing the matter with Carlton. The Blues' general manager of football Andrew McKay said on Tuesday he was not aware of any issue and had not witnessed the conversation.
''He [Stevic] was adamant it wasn't a big deal,'' Campbell told Fairfax Media. ''He spoke to me about it because he wanted to be sure he had behaved in the correct and dignified fashion. He didn't have an issue with Mick. Matt's a really senior umpire and it was good they had the debate. He just wanted to explain his response and we were satisfied with that.''
One incident which riled Malthouse occurred in the first minute of the game and saw then Bomber Stewart Crameri goal from a 50-metre penalty awarded against the Blues’ Andrew McInnes. Vision of the game shows a stunned McInnes, who was deemed to have held on to Crameri for too long after the Essendon player had taken a mark, and also shows Malthouse making his displeasure clear in the coach’s box.
Stevic, who travelled with Carlton on the club’ s end-of-season trip to Arizona last year, had not umpired a Blues game since that narrow loss to Essendon.
Malthouse, whose behaviour in the post-match press conference has come under some scrutiny, is understood to have suggested to Stevic that the decision could have affected the playing career of the Carlton footballer involved.
McInnes played in round one for Carlton against Port Adelaide but was dropped for the Richmond game.
Caroline Wilson has been chief football writer for The Age since 1999. She was the first woman to cover Australian Rules football on a full-time basis and the first woman to win the AFL's gold media award. She has won the AFL Players' Association's football writer of the year (1999) and the AFL Media Association's most outstanding football writer and most outstanding feature writer (2000, 2003, 2005). In 2014 she won the Melbourne Press Club's Graham Perkin award as Australian journalist of the year. She also won a MPC Quill Award in 2003.
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