AFL fans call for change after 'horrible' Patrick Dangerfield moment amid heroics

The veteran wound back the clock to lead Geelong over St Kilda - but not without controversy.

Patrick Dangerfield was the hero for Geelong in their thrilling AFL win over St Kilda on Saturday night. But a contentious free kick awarded to the Cats champion late in the game left fans and commentators calling for change.

St Kilda had threatened to pull off a remarkable comeback and were surging late in the game, but Dangerfield sealed the win for the Cats with a long-range goal from a set shot in the final minute. Dangerfield took an intercept mark and belted home from 55 metres with just 35 seconds left to play, as the Cats survived for a 10.16 (76) to 9.14 (68) victory.

Patrick Dangerfield, pictured here kneeing Liam Stocker in the back in their AFL game.
Patrick Dangerfield was awarded the free kick despite kneeing Liam Stocker in the back in their AFL clash. Image: Getty/Fox Footy

But a controversial umpiring decision just a few minutes prior to that left AFL fans up in arms. With the Saints charging home, Liam Stocker was pinged for diving at Dangerfield below the knees during a contest - a rule that was introduced in recent years but has caused confusion and anger.

Stocker got to the ball first and was kneed in the back by Dangerfield, who flung himself over the top of his opponent after the collision. But despite the fact Stocker arrived well before Dangerfield and got to the ball first, the St Kilda player was pinged by the umpires for his contact on Dangerfield.

AFL world left fuming over Patrick Dangerfield free kick

The 'below the knee' rule was introduced in recent years and makes it illegal for players to dive into a contest and put other players in danger. But as many pointed out on Saturday night, it was actually Dangerfield who put Stocker in danger by sliding in with his knees.

Dangerfield and Stocker were both shaken up by the incident, but Dangerfield stayed on the ground and Stocker had to go off for treatment. Many believed the incident highlighted a grey area in the rule and called on the AFL to clarify it or scrap it altogether.

Liam Stocker, pictured here leaving the field after the collision with Patrick Dangerfield.
Liam Stocker had to leave the field after the collision with Patrick Dangerfield. (Getty Images)

Commentator Darren Parkin wrote on social media: "Surely the worst decision of the season and won’t be beaten?" Another person commented: "Worst umpiring decision of the year so far but will probably be the leader by the end of the season. Dangerfield v Stocker, I guess it’s the Danger tax."

A third added: "That’s the worst free kick I’ve seen in years. Dangerfield should had one for knees in the back. Could have done serious damage to the Saints player." Others described it as a "joke" and "horrible" for the AFL and Dangerfield.

Social media account 'Has the umpire made a bad decision' - which is run by an accredited AFL umpire - said the call was wrong and there shouldn't have been a free kick either way. "This is a wrong decision," they wrote. "Ball is never in dispute, Dangerfield was never winning it and it is Danger who rushes in and causes contact. Stocker off his feet does look bad so I do get umpires thinking. If ball in dispute - FK. But should have just been play on here."

Should Patrick Dangerfield have gone for goal?

Dangerfield had 25 disposals and eight clearances in a vintage display, while Max Holmes, Tanner Bruhn and Jhye Clark were influential for Geelong. But Cats coach Chris Scott said he found it "interesting" that Dangerfield took the match-winning shot rather than passing the ball.


Scott said he wouldn't recommend players attempting to score in that situation, but he saw the 33-year-old Dangerfield's nerveless execution as a huge positive. "We were confident with Patty's pre-season that he was at least going to give himself a chance to play as well as he ever has," Scott said.

Jeremy Cameron and Patrick Dangerfield.
Jeremy Cameron celebrates with Patrick Dangerfield after the match-sealing goal. (AFL Photos via Getty Images)

"That was a really good sign for us - and I know it was a shot for goal - but there have been versions of Patty in the past where he's been a little bit limited and he just would've been too fatigued to make the distance with that shot. I might be clutching at straws a little bit, but I think it's a good sign that he's in good shape.

"There wouldn't be many players in the competition that would back themselves to even make the distance in that situation. It was an interesting decision because if you take the long shot and it's rushed through, the opposition get the ball back and it can be hard to defend. But he backed himself to kick it and that's why the great players are the great players."

with AAP