AFL umpires' explanation after 'frustrating' display angers fans

Chris Young
·Sports Reporter
·3-min read
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten was contacted by AFL umpires boss Hayden Kennedy after a massive 48 free kicks were paid in the Saints' win over the Adelaide Crows in Monday. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
St Kilda coach Brett Ratten was contacted by AFL umpires boss Hayden Kennedy after a massive 48 free kicks were paid in the Saints' win over the Adelaide Crows in Monday. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

St Kilda coach Brett Ratten has been contacted by AFL umpires boss Hayden Kennedy after a confusing Monday night clash with Adelaide in which a whopping total of 48 free kicks were paid.

The Saints claimed a crucial 23-point win over the Crows on Monday night, but both Ratten and his Adelaide counterpart Matthew Nicks were left perplexed by inconsistent decision making from the umpires.

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Ratten was vocally critical of the state of umpiring after the match, suggesting current trends could result in players being unwilling to go for the ball, instead waiting around to tackle whoever does.

While the Saints coach was mindful not to explicitly criticise the standard of umpiring across the board, he warned the league needed to ‘be careful’ when it came to protecting the player with the ball.

Both The Age and Fox Sports verified that Kennedy had contacted Ratten on Tuesday to discuss Monday night’s match.

A mid-season league directive led umpires to tighten the adjudication of the rule and subsequent inconsistencies have frustrated players, coaches and fans alike.

It followed scathing criticism from Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson last month about the congested state of the game and the perceived failure of umpires to reward tacklers.

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Crows star Taylor Walker says players not attacking the ball

The debate has raged in recent weeks and was reignited on Monday night after a series of contentious holding-the-ball decisions during St Kilda's win over Adelaide.

"I actually do feel a little bit for the umpires at the moment with the holding-the-ball issue," former Crows captain Walker told reporters on Tuesday.

"It's been raised in the industry and now I feel it's making it tougher and tougher for our umpires to adjudicate the game.

AFL forward Taylor Walker is pictured playing for the Adelaide Crows.
Adelaide Crows star Taylor Walker says fluctuations in umpiring could change the way players attack the AFL contest. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

"But I've got to be careful what I say because I don't want to be pulling out money from my pocket."

Walker said players are now accepting being second to the ball rather than trying to win it, because of the way holding the ball is being adjudicated.

"You can clearly see that blokes are now thinking twice about, 'Do I get the ball and then get tackled or do I let someone else get it and I'll tackle them?'," he said.

"It has certainly played a part in the way people are playing."