Umpire boss says Andrew-King free was wrong call

Roger Vaughan |

The AFL umpiring department agrees with Gold Coast coach Damien Hardwick that the crucial free kick paid against Mac Andrew was “unwarranted”.

But umpires’ boss Steve McBurney says the free paid against West Coast star Elliot Yeo and the handling of the hectic end to the Hawthorn-GWS match were correct.

Controversial umpiring decisions punctuated the end of Saturday’s three close games.

Andrew and St Kilda coach opponent Max King were grappling late in the Marvel Stadium game when a holding free was paid against the Suns defender.

King kicked the goal and the Saints won a low-scoring game by three points.

Andrew was furious when the free was paid, and Hardwick likewise had to hold his tongue in the post-match media conference.

“We totally understand why he paid it,” McBurney said of the free kick.

“We just don’t see, with the benefit of all the additional angles we get, that that is the right outcome for the amount of contact occurring between both players.”

McBurney also stressed that it was not classified as a major or critical error.

“It’s a judgment call … we have full confidence in that umpire,” he said.

“Absolutely, he will not be dropped over a decision like this.”

Yeo was unlucky late in West Coast’s nine-point loss to North Melbourne, first jarring the ball free with his strong tackle on George Wardlaw.

There was no prior opportunity, meaning no free was paid, but then Yeo found himself over the ball and did not knock it free before Jy Simpkin tackled him.

In that instance, there is no prior opportunity and McBurney said the free against Yeo for holding the ball was the right call.

Simpkin then kicked a crucial late goal to put the Kangaroos in front.

“He (Yeo) is immediately tackled by Jy Simpkin and the rules require that if you dive on the ball or drag it back in, you must knock it clear immediately,” McBurney said.

“The tackle is effective and so we say holding the ball is the correct outcome there.

“Reasonable time doesn’t apply to the second tackle – it does to the first and the ball is jarred free immediately.

“The reasonable time clarification has no application to what the umpire penalised Yeo for in that instance.”

The AFL issued a rare mid-season edict a few days ago about reasonable time in holding-the-ball decisions, following a growing confusion about what constitutes a free kick.

McBurney again noted a free should have been paid against Sam Draper earlier this season for a similar incident late in Essendon’s win over Adelaide, when the ruckman was on the ground over the ball and was tackled.

The umpires’ boss also said correct calls were made when Hawthorn captain James Sicily was bumped after his kick in the last minute of the Hawks’ six-point win over the Giants on Saturday.

The shot went out on the full and the “free after disposal” was paid to Hawthorn in their forward pocket.

McBurney conceded that Mabior Chol was possibly closer to that point than Luke Breust, who kicked the winning goal from the acute angle, but said it had been the umpire’s call.

Speaking at a media call on Sunday afternoon, McBurney said the umpires and clubs involved had been told about the umpiring department review verdicts earlier in the day.