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It's My Sacred Duty As A Football Fan To Blow Up At Refs And Umps

It's not whingeing. It's keeping the bastards honest.

11/09/2017 2:43 PM AEST | Updated 11/09/2017 2:43 PM AEST
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You tell 'em.

As kids we're taught to accept the umpire's decision. We're also taught to eat your greens and respect your elders. These are all sound enough pieces of advice.

But there are exceptions to every rule.

Donald Trump is our elder. Kale tastes like newspaper. And sometimes, umpires and referees make such appallingly misguided decisions, you're not a real fan if you don't question them.

There were several extremely controversial moments in both the NRL and AFL on the first weekend of finals footy. Fans blew up accordingly. Know what happened next? We were effectively told to shut up and look away, that's what.

It often seems like Chinese state media would sooner run criticism of itself than the media departments of our major sporting codes. The NRL published a story with the headline: "Forget the refs, let's celebrate the footy". In part, it read:

One of the greatest weekends of finals footy has come to an end, but instead of focussing on the unscriptable finishes and the stunning upsets, people have turned their attention solely on the officials and the Bunker.

Why? Because it's the easy way out for coaches and fans of a beaten team while it's a guaranteed way for the media to ensure people buy their paper or click on their website.

Yeah? Is it really only about whingeing and clicks? What about the fact that refereeing is part of the theatre of professional sport -- so if we cheer and jeer the players, the officials should get some too?

What about accountability?

What about the fact that it's a professional sport, with paid officials working in a $3.2 million video replay "bunker" who seemingly ignore their own guidelines?

What about fans who put up with warm beer and cold pies and who just want to see the best team win?

In the Manly/Penrith elimination final, the bunker denied Manly's Dylan Walker a try. As with cricket, the bunker can only overturn the onfield decision with CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE.

The onfield ref said yep, this play was good. Dylan walker (red line right) was not in front of the kicker (red line left). Well, you tell us. Did the bunker have enough evidence to overturn that?

Ch 9

Manly fans didn't think so. Neither did the Nine commentary team, who were unanimously aghast at the decision. Meanwhile, guess how prominently the incident featured in the NRL's match highlights video...

They left it out. It literally didn't warrant five seconds of footage in the official three-minute highlights package of a low-scoring game. Because shhhh... don't mention the war.

Over in the AFL, all the talk was about the Port Adelaide/West Coast match. On paper it had looked the least interesting of the finals, but turned out to be a thriller. West Coast dominated, Port fought back and built what looked an unassailable lead in extra-time.

Then with 20 seconds to go, this happened.

From the ensuing free kick, West Coast's Luke Shuey slotted truly after the siren. Game over. Eagles win by two. But should the free kick have been awarded?

If you look closely, the initial contact by tackling player Jared Polec was made at chest level. Shuey then moved his arm up, and Polec's arm swung upwards to forbidden high tackle territory.

At the start of this season, the AFL made some clarifications to the high tackling rule. It said that "where a tackle is reasonably applied and the ball carrier is responsible for the high contact via a shrug, drop, arm lift or duck, play on should be called".

So there you have it. By the AFL's own definition, this was not a high tackle. Yet the free kick was awarded and a promising team's season ended prematurely.

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That's Polec on the left.

Port Adelaide, of course, have only themselves to blame, most notably for their wayward kicking. It should also be noted that Port coach Ken Hinkley took it like a trooper, refusing to be dragged into the umpiring controversy. Might not the rest of us be so gracious?

Well, here's the thing. The AFL scurried off, reviewed its paid official's decision, and found it to be both hunky and dory.

"I'm absolutely staggered that they've come out and supported their own decision," said recently retired St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt in definitely the truest and most excellent words spoken this weekend.

And that's the point. In an era when football codes increasingly control their own message, it's more important than ever that fans blow up. That's not whingeing. It's keeping the bastards honest.

And there's nothing that any suited football code official can say that changes that.

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