The AFL has conceded a free kick should have been awarded to Brisbane’s Zac Bailey in the dying stages of Friday night’s one-point defeat to Geelong.
Bailey laid a tackle on Mark Blicavs a few metres out from the Lions’ attacking goal and spun the Cats defender, who then appeared to get rid of the ball illegally.
But umpire Robert O’Gorman called play on and Geelong hung on for a controversial win.
If the free kick was awarded, Bailey would almost certainly have kicked a goal and won the match for Brisbane.
Instead, they sit 0-2 after two rounds.
AFL umpires boss Dan Richardson fronted the media on Saturday to clarify the league’s position.
“Upon review, we acknowledge that it was a missed free kick on this occasion,” Richardson said.
“By attempting to evade the player with the ball, that’s prior opportunity, and as a result the call should’ve been holding the ball.
“Footy is a game filled with split-second decisions from players, coaches and umpires.
At any given match, umpires are required to make anywhere between 800 and 1000 decisions per game. In this instance, we didn’t quite get this one right.”
Richardson said the league’s umpiring department will “wrap the arms around” O’Gorman this week.
There will be no sanction for experienced whistleblower O’Gorman, who made his AFL umpiring debut in 2014 and was named as the emergency umpire for last year’s grand final.
O’Gorman will officiate as planned in round three.
“What I know and have seen of the umpires so far is they’re a resilient bunch, Rob included,” Richardson said.
“He understands we’re all human, we make mistakes, and he’s comfortable with us addressing (this issue) on his behalf today and we’ll move on.”
Blicavs said after the match Bailey had laid a good tackle but claimed it did not deserve a free kick.
“I didn’t have prior (opportunity). It was tough,” he told the ABC.
“I picked it up and there was pressure all over. I tried to get it through (for a rushed behind) but the tackle was bloody good, but yeah, we’ll say play on.”
Injured Lions players rushed to social media to comment on the decision, with Cam Rayner saying “got to be kidding me” and Darcy Gardiner tweeting “just throw it. No worries”.
Brisbane coach Chris Fagan refused to buy in post-match, saying he wouldn’t comment on the umpiring.
“I haven’t in the four years I’ve coached so I’m not going to start now; I don’t think it’s constructive,” Fagan said.
Geelong counterpart Chris Scott said he felt for umpires trying to make tough calls in the heat of battle.
“I haven’t had a good look at that, I’ll reserve my opinion on that one until I have a look at it,” Scott said.
“I got caught up in the emotion right towards the end. I’m a big subscriber to the theory that the game is very hard to umpire.”