The Adelaide Crows have been blasted for their 'unprofessional' approach to the newly introduced medical sub after their narrow loss to Hawthorn over the weekend.
Despite managing to kick 15 goals without a miss through three quarters on Sunday afternoon, the Crows fell to the Hawks 15.12 (102) to 16.3 (99).
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Incredibly, the Crows passed their highest points tally from last season (84) in the first half alone - but their second half capitulation, in which they scored just 15 points, wasn't the only reason fans were frustrated by the loss.
The Crows seemingly took a gamble by making forward Tom Lynch, who has been nursing a toe injury for several weeks, their designated medical substitute.
That gamble blew up in their face when defender Will Hamill was helped from the field by two trainers with a match-ending ankle injury in the third quarter - prompting Lynch to hustle to the Crows rooms to have his foot strapped and warm up.
It wasn't until the final quarter that Lynch was ready to enter the game, despite medical subs from other teams frequently ready to play almost immediately after their number is called.
The Crows were savaged from pillar to post over the choice, with fans and footy experts alike hammering the side for not ensuring a fully healthy player was chosen as the substitute.
Former St Kilda star Nick Dal Santo said it was clear the Crows had been hoping not to have to activate Lynch.
“He’s got to do a warm-up and possibly get some medical treatment before he’s ready to come onto the ground,” Dal Santo said on Fox Footy.
“It’s a little bit unusual — I don’t think they openly wanted to use him today.
“He’ll need some treatment before he can take part in this game.”
The Crows were leading by 20 points when Hamill went down, and still lead by 13 once the final quarter got started.
But they soon coughed that lead up, and Hawthorn great Jason Dunstall said it was obvious Lynch was underdone after the 30-year-old registered just three touches after getting on the field five minutes into the final stanza.
“You’ve got a medical sub — he’s there to be used, and if you’re not ready, there’s something wrong. That makes no sense," Dunstall said.
“It is unprofessional if the sub is not ready to go.
“He had to go down to the rooms, he didn’t have his boots on, didn’t have his ankles strapped, hadn’t been warmed up and they didn’t want to play him.
“He couldn’t run, when he was out on the field, he couldn’t move … he couldn’t get in motion.”
Adelaide Crows defend Tom Lynch choice as AFL medical sub
After the game, the Crows defended their decision to list Lynch as their medical substitute despite the fierce criticism.
The Crows' head of football Adam Kelly said once Hamill was confirmed to be out, the team had planned for Lynch to only join the contest for the final quarter.
“We sent Tom Lynch down into the rooms to get ready to take the field,” he said.
“With Tom, as has been the case for three or four weeks now, he requires some treatment prior to being able to go out onto the field.
“What we did say was ‘take the time you need to be right to play', knowing we wanted him available to go onto the field for the first rotation in that last quarter.
“We anticipated that was going to be around the five-minute mark of that last quarter.
“He was available to go onto the field about two-and-a-half minutes into that last quarter where he was up on the interchange.”
Fans though, weren't really buying the excuse.
Many were frustrated by the move, with some suggesting it contributed to the narrow and crucial loss.
Guardian columnist Greg Jericho said it was an unacceptable turn of events.
“This is pathetic by the Crows not having the sub ready. Awful second half by the Crows. Terrible player management with the sub," he tweeted.
It was Hawthorn's first win since round one, when they came from 39 points down to beat Essendon by a point.
"I would have liked it to be a little easier than the way the game unfolded. But we can't be too choosy," Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson said.
In just his fifth top-grade game, Jacob Koschitzke kicked three in a free-flowing opening quarter that set the tone for the match.
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