'Please don't do this': AFL review shake-up panned

Chris Young
Sports Reporter

Goal review howlers like the one that could have cost GWS a grand final berth could be a thing of the past if the AFL goes ahead with a proposed player challenge system.

The league could allow players to challenge decisions made by goal umpires as soon as next season, football chief Steve Hocking has revealed.

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The move, which would shift some of the onus to players when it comes to touched-off-the-boot calls only, was discussed at the AFL's competition committee meeting in Melbourne on Tuesday.

But some AFL greats have slammed the idea, arguing it goes too far and will destroy the flow of the game.

Essendon champion Tim Watson openly begged the AFL not to proceed with the idea on SEN Breakfast.

“Please don’t do this, AFL,” he said.

“Let’s live with the 50 shades of grey in our game.

Umpires review a score during the round 21 AFL match between the St Kilda Saints and the Fremantle Dockers at Marvel Stadium on August 11, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

“Our game, if it wanted certainty and fairness, we would have played this with a circular ball, not an oval shaped ball.

“Sometimes you’ve got to see what happens and which direction it flows in. I want it all gone.

“Because, if we can improve that decision let’s try and improve this decision and then this decision and this decision.”

Watson wasn’t alone in his reluctance to embrace further reviews of umpiring decisions.

Co-host and Demons legend Garry Lyon said it was time for both the league and fans to scrap the review, and accept that umpires might occasionally make mistakes.

“Umpire’s call. Just wear it. It’s always been one of the anomalies of the game,” Lyon said.

“We are not going to get to a point where we are completely and utterly satisfied whether a ball flicks the edge of somebody’s finger or not.

“It is a crazy thing to try and introduce.”

Changes proposed after score review bungle

It comes after the league admitted a goal was incorrectly awarded to Collingwood's Josh Thomas in this year's preliminary final when GWS won by four points.

All goals are routinely scrutinised by the AFL Review Centre (ARC), but Hocking believes a player challenge system would allow officials to take more time to get decisions correct.

In the Thomas example, the Giants could have potentially been cost a grand final berth after the AFL was forced to admit the reviewer failed to see Lachie Keeffe's fingers brush the ball in the frantic final minutes at the MCG.

"We want to provide the player and also the team with the ability to follow it through strongly and it also allows us greater time as well," Hocking told reporters.

"A lot of that happens back-of-house but in this sense if I'm at a game and (a player) makes that decision then the fans are going to respond to that in a different way.

"I think the average (review) over the year was about 28 seconds but we could've taken it out to a minute (to look at the Thomas goal) and fans would've been really comfortable with that because it would have been a player challenge.

"On top of that, it doesn't look like officialdom is intervening in the game.

"There's some work to be done on that but we're exploring it."

Teams could be allowed up to three challenges a match under the system that will be discussed at December's AFL Commission meeting.

Hocking said research showed rule changes like the new 6-6-6 set up after goals and the relaxed kick-in restrictions have been well-received by fans but ruled out further tinkering for next season.