AFL fans are up in arms after an error with the game clock could potentially have cost the Western Bulldogs a place in the top four.
After their loss on Friday, the Bulldogs' chances of clinging to fourth on the ladder hinged on the result of Brisbane's match against West Coast on Saturday evening.
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It was a fairly innocuous error at the time - the clock did not restart for around 25 seconds after Brisbane's Jarrod Berry took a mark at roughly the 15 minute mark of the final quarter.
If the ladder hadn't been decided in the final minute, the error may not have mattered at all.
The Lions ultimately won the game by 38 points, with a Lincoln McCarthy behind in the final seconds enough to give the Lions the 31-point win they needed to move ahead of the Bulldogs on percentage.
A Charlie Cameron sealer after the siren moved the final ladder positions beyond doubt, consigning the Bulldogs to an elimination final.
However, Fox Footy's Tom Morris picked up on the clock error earlier in the final quarter, and subsequently confirmed with the AFL that an error had indeed been made.
“He takes the mark, that’s time off. There was a whistle and then you see the umpire’s arm go up,” Morris said after the game.
“That’s when the time was meant to start again, it doesn’t and that’s when 24 seconds were lost.
“This is a simple error, it’s a crucial error that happened four times last year.
“I contacted the AFL and on every single occasion, there was no real response, no endeavour to change, no admission that something had gone wrong.
“On this occasion, something has gone wrong again and it has seriously affected the outcome of the game.”
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Discussing the clock error, Bulldogs great Brad Johnson was at a loss as to how it could have happened.
“I understand the bigger nature of this...mistakes like this should be avoided," he said.
Former Hawthorn and Melbourne defender Jordan Lewis agreed, arguing that while it was a relatively innocuous error, the knock-on effect on the ladder meant every step should be taken to avoid a repeat in future.
“You can argue it cost Western Bulldogs a top four spot because everything happened in that last 20 to 25 seconds,” Lewis said.
“People might say it’s a bit of a stretch and there was 14 minutes to go. That could have been the game. The Western Bulldogs miss out on the top four. A simple error has cost the side a top four position.
“It should not happen. It is a simple job to do. Watch the umpire, see if his arm goes up, if it goes up again, start the clock.”
While the Bulldogs will no doubt rue the poor end to their season that put them at risk of dropping out of the top four in the first place, their pain was Brisbane's pleasure.
Even coach Chris Fagan had believed it unlikely the Lions would be able to conjure up some percentage magic - but they did it.
Fagan had texted his players earlier on Saturday in an attempt to explain the mathematical scenario.
But it looked as if calculators would not be required when they jumped ahead by 30 points in the first term and on their way to a double-chance courtesy of their top four finish.
An Eagles team missing Josh Kennedy, Jeremy McGovern, Brad Sheppard, Jack Redden and Tim Kelly rallied though, dominating the second quarter and then getting within five points of the Lions to seemingly scupper their hopes of a second chance in the post-season.
"It was a race against time for the Lions and they were gifted time."@barrettdamian talks through the clock drama in the Brisbane v West Coast clash.#9AFLSFS | Watch @channel9 pic.twitter.com/zTRvLgjN2c
— Footy on Nine (@FootyonNine) August 22, 2021
Two quick Jamie Cripps goals in the final term even had Fagan convinced, but five straight majors shot them back in front of the margin required and ignited the Gabba crowd, who along with the Lions' bench had done the maths.
Jack Darling's third goal dented hopes again, but Brisbane edged back as shouts from the bench informed players just one more point would be enough.
Daniel McStay's set shot from 50m then missed everything, bouncing out with 30 seconds left to play.
But McCarthy scrambled from the next stoppage and snapped the point they needed to edge ahead of the Bulldogs again.
Charlie Cameron then intercepted the Eagles' attempt to clear their defence, kicking a goal after the siren to blow out what was otherwise a historically narrow one-point difference between fourth and fifth.
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