Controversy erupts as Kangaroos beat Eagles in thriller

Justin Chadwick |

Jy Simpkin’s final-quarter goal for the Kangaroos helped clinch a nine-point win over the Eagles.
Jy Simpkin’s final-quarter goal for the Kangaroos helped clinch a nine-point win over the Eagles.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson has chosen to remain silent for fear of getting into trouble after his side copped a controversial late umpiring decision in a nine-point loss to North Melbourne.

The Kangaroos looked set for a cruisy win after Jy Simpkin’s goal early in the final quarter of Saturday’s match at Optus Stadium gave them a 33-point lead.

But six unanswered goals from West Coast – including three to Jake Waterman – put the home side in front with six minutes remaining.

Controversy erupted with a little over two minutes to go when Eagles star Elliot Yeo was adjudged to be holding the ball.

Yeo laid a big tackle on George Wardlaw, then was tackled himself by Simpkin immediately after grabbing the loose ball.

Yeo and his Eagles teammates were left astounded by the decision, with Simpson also displaying his disbelief from the coaches’ box.

Simpkin nailed the 45m set shot to give the Kangaroos the lead, and Paul Curtin kicked truly a short time later to seal the 11.8 (74) to 8.17 (65) win.

It marked North Melbourne’s first victory since beating Gold Coast in the final round last year, snapping an 11-match losing run.

When asked about whether the free kick against Yeo should have been paid, Simpson replied: “I can’t comment.”

He was a bit more open when asked about the recent tweak to the holding-the-ball rule, which gives players less time to dispose of it.

“I think it will settle,” Simpson said. 

“Players adjust, but on the fly it is difficult. 

“We can’t coach differently, so I don’t know what to say to Elliot – ‘don’t win the ball?’ I don’t know.”

When again pushed on the Yeo free kick, Simpson bluntly batted it away.

“I’m not talking about that free kick any more, because I’ll get in trouble,” he said.

Elliot Yeo (left).
Elliot Yeo (left) was devastated after a holding-the-ball decision ended up costing a goal. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

North Melbourne coach Alastair Clarkson claimed he didn’t see the free kick, but sympathised with the umpires.

“This is the hard thing for the umps, they’re making hundreds of decisions a game,” Clarkson said. 

“And not just the ones where they’re actually blowing the whistle, but they’re making a decision all the time on what aren’t free kicks or what aren’t marks and that sort of stuff. 

“It’ll be disappointing given that there was 150 tackles or something in the game to just pinpoint one.

“But when it’s a close game you can understand that fans would be upset.”

Kangaroos forward Nick Larkey kicked five goals, while Zac Fisher racked up 36 disposals.

A five-goal haul from Nick Larkey (second right).
A five-goal haul from Nick Larkey (second right) set up the Kangaroos’ win over the Eagles. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

Simpkin was crucial with two goals – both in the final quarter – to go with his 28 disposals.

Yeo was brilliant in West Coast’s final-quarter charge, tallying nine possessions, five clearances and a goal for the term.

West Coast defender Liam Duggan was concussed late in the game after a clash of heads with a teammate.

The Eagles went into the quarter-time break leading 1.4 (10) to 0.1 (1), with Jack Darling kicking 1.3 for the term.

The Kangaroos were forced to activate their sub Eddie Ford early after losing Will Dawson to a shoulder injury in the first term.

West Coast’s waywardness continued in the second term, registering 1.5 to North Melbourne’s 4.4 as the visitors shot out to an eight-point lead.

Larkey kicked five goals across the second and third quarters to put North into the box seat, but they needed some luck from the umpires to overcome West Coast’s final-term surge.