A loose ground ball lays on the MCG. Easton Wood on one side and Dan Hannebery on the other. In a desperate attempt to win possession in the manner we have been raised for decades Wood launches himself headlong at the inevitably disputed ball. Hannebery is a split second later – perhaps wondering “do I dive in for it or do I keep my feet and follow the recent rule change?” In the end Wood wins the ball conclusively and Hannebery is taken from the ground with a potential ACL injury.
Why is this single contest so significant?
Firstly it shows the desperation and commitment from Wood irrespective of rules and regulations – THAT BALL IS MINE!
Secondly it shows the confusing implications of AFL interference under the banner of “brand”. Coaches knew, fans knew, players knew and thankfully the umpires also knew that you couldn’t penalise a player for trying to win a loose ball in a manic contest on the most important day of the year. This should vindicate the umpires to have the rule changed back to how it has been for 100 years.
The only more significant incident than the one highlighted would have been if the scores were level and the contest was in the goal square and Wood wins it to break the deadlock as the siren sounds. This scenario has been talked about ad-nauseum since the imbeciles in the looney house decided to change the interpretation post Adam Goodes diving in to contests and Gary Rohan severely injuring his left knee.
Owner or two isolated incidents do not warrant rule changes. Players adapt. Coaches drill.
We all knew the AFL would not pay those types of free kicks on Grand Final day – or a cut-throat final for that matter. The decision was made simply to appease the general public and impress the passing parade of “doomsdayers” looking for a perfect outcome to a brutal contest.
We probably counted 10 similar incidents during the game and none of them were paid. Were the umpires intimidated? Did they truly believe in the rule?
The facts are umpires let most insignificant, borderline incidents go during the finals series. Speak to any person at the AFL Umpire division and they’ll say that’s because the best umpires are officiating. Absolute Rubbish.
It’s all about attitude not ability. The attitude of umpires in big games is totally different. They do not want to influence or impact a game whereas during the season they can strut, impose, be technical, over officiate and think the games about them.
The umpires were brilliant on the weekend and for most of the finals series it might be said. Let’s hope they can continue on in the same vein from Round 1 next year.