Richmond’s victory over Port Adelaide in Friday night’s AFL preliminary final has been overshadowed by yet another umpiring controversy, this time over a contentious deliberate out of bounds call.
The Tigers nabbed a crucial fourth quarter goal when Port Adelaide’s Hamish Hartlett was pinged for deliberately shovelling the ball over the boundary line, with Richmond’s Kane Lambert booting a goal that extended their final quarter lead to 10.
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The visitors at Adelaide Oval went on to win through to their third grand final in four years with a 6.10.46 to 6.4.40 nailbiter, but the deliberate out of bounds call, one of six such calls made by umpires throughout the match, didn’t sit well with fans.
Channel 7 commentator Brian Taylor was unequivocal about Hartlett’s effort at the time however - he thought the umpire was on the money.
“Was it deliberate? You bet it was. Great call by the umpire,” he said.
“He had no other intention and I think that’s a pretty obvious decision.”
Despite this, many others were irritated by how many times the usually uncommon deliberate out of bounds rule was enforced in a closely-contested preliminary final.
In the 159 games played in 2020 prior to Friday’s preliminary final, deliberate out of bounds was called just 155 times.
Former umpire’s boss Peter Schwab was one of many to take to social media to speak out against the seemingly excessive whistle from the umpires.
“No idea by umpire. To pay DOB. Tough game and we get that,” he posted.
South Australia footy great Graham Cornes was also less than impressed.
“On a night when goals are gold how can we tolerate ridiculous deliberate of bounds interpretations?” he wrote on Twitter.
“Who has given umpires this mandate? Both teams were courageous but this modern game needs a serious overview.”
Nothing but admiration for Richmond and they way they go about it. But on a night when goals are gold how can we tolerate ridiculous deliberate of bounds interpretations? Who has given umpires this mandate? Both teams were courageous but this modern game needs a serious overview https://t.co/4pJrTAyeKi— Graham Cornes (@Cornesy12) October 16, 2020
Despite this, the umpires had their supporters as well.
Channel 7 football reporter Tom Browne threw his support behind the whistleblowers.
“I was surprised by the deliberate interpretation last night, and don’t know why it was more strict on the night (almost rule of the week stuff), but felt it was consistent all night,” he posted.
“It’s a good rule. So I don’t think it’s fair to use one outlier game to argue the rule is a disaster or anything like that.
“Many aspects of umpiring AFL are partly or largely subjective. This is one of them.
“I think the umpires did a pretty good job and didn’t have a massive bearing on the outcome.”
Richmond through to AFL Grand Final
The Tigers, with trump card Dustin Martin kicking two goals, prevailed 6.10 (46) to 6.4 (40) in a rain-soaked clash at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.
Richmond will shoot for a third premiership in four seasons against the winner of Brisbane's Saturday night bout against Geelong.
"It's a significant achievement, just making it to the grand final," Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said.
"I couldn't be prouder of the playing group - what Port threw at us tonight was incredible.
"You sit there and look at that game of footy and it was just brutal the whole way through, guys throwing their bodies on the line."
Martin's influence loomed large with a team-high 21 disposals featuring four clearances while teammate Kane Lambert emerged as an unlikely hero with two last-quarter goals.
Lambert's strikes tipped the balance in a see-saw scrap - the margin was never greater than 11 points.
Dion Prestia (19 touches), Bachar Houli (15 disposals) and Trent Cotchin (17 possessions) were also prominent for Richmond.
The Power fell agonisingly short of reaching their first grand final since 2007 with stalwart Brad Ebert ending his career with another concussion.
Ebert, who wears a helmet after being concussed numerous times in his 260-game career, was again knocked out when copping a stray elbow to the head with six minutes remaining.
Port coach Ken Hinkley says Ebert will retire after the Power were pipped despite gallantry from Xavier Duursma (19 disposals, one goal), Ollie Wines (24 disposals) and Dan Houston (22 touches).