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Broken system: AFL score review has reached peak confusion levels

Essendon's Shaun McKernan kicks at goal during the AFL round 15 game against GWS Giants.

ROUND 15 of the AFL season is only two games old and already there’s enough score review controversy to keep Gillon McLachlan busy for the next week.

Essendon’s gutsy comeback victory over GWS on Thursday night was overshadowed by Shaun McKernan’s dubious ‘was it touched or not’ goal in the final two minutes.

Similarly, instead of talking about how good the clash between Geelong and Adelaide was, the big focal point will be whether the ball twice touched the goal post or not.

Honestly, I sit here in front of my laptop unsure where to even start to unravel and dissect the clusterfuck that is the AFL score review system.

A novelty that was introduced to correct the ‘howlers’, the AFL’s version of cricket’s Decision Review System – snicko and all – is fast becoming a weekly headache for the big wigs at AFL house.

Frankly, it should be shelved entirely until a workable system is created, tested, and then tested again, because the current one is a shambles, to put it extremely politely.

Thursday’s night’s decision arguably decided the result.

With around two minutes left on the clock, and with the Giants clinging to a narrow one-goal lead, Bomber Shaun McKernan streamed inside 50 and kicked truly to level the scores.

GWS defender Adam Kennedy’s smother attempt was close enough to warrant a further look, and on review it appeared his finger was bent back as the ball passed his hand.

The overall consensus from couch experts around the country was that Kennedy touched it.

In the same breath, there’s plenty who said the footage – in all its blurry, pixelated glory – was inconclusive.

This was the stance AFL boss McLachlan took when signing off on the umpires’ decision to award the goal, saying today they were correct in their assessment of the footage.

The Giants ended up losing the match by a goal.

GWS board member and former Geelong star Jimmy Bartel grilled the AFL on radio about the incident, saying the AFL was either “blatantly lying” when saying every score is reviewed, or the people reviewing the footage were completely “inept” at their job.

Whack.

Jimmy rarely missed on the field, and he’s certainly carried that approach into the media – and, he’s absolutely right.

‘THE AFL IS KILLING MY LOVE FOR THE GAME’

The AFL has been putting bandaid, after bandaid, after bandaid over this faulty system ever since it half-assed creating it, and has been feeding footy fans shit every time it stuffs up – which seems to be increasing in regularity lately.

It will be interesting to see whether Gil also signs off on Friday night’s game between the Cats and Crows, which had two incidences of score review uncertainty.

The first ruled Elliot Himmelberg’s shot on goal didn’t graze the post as it dribbled through early in the match – this was supported by the new ‘AFL Edge’ technology which failed to show up any sound spike on its ‘snicko’ meter.

As such, the on-field umpire’s call of a goal was upheld.

The second controversy came in the last quarter when the game was in the balance, as Geelong’s Tim Kelly appeared to sneak the ball through from a snap to put the Cats up by 20 points midway through the term.

However, this is where things got truly confusing.

Despite on-field goal umpire David Rodan confidently calling it a call, the footage was reviewed and like Himmelberg’s appeared to be inconclusive.

I say inconclusive because while the ball may have snicked the padding on the way past, you couldn’t tell with 100 per cent certainty that it had – that is meant to be the criteria for overturning a ruling, is it not?

Nevertheless AFL Edge was fired up and seemed to show vibration spikes, indicating the ball had shaved the post.

Yet, looking at the footage from 7AFL, the vibration spikes show up before the ball even reaches the goal line.

What I actually think has happened is the opposite goal post has picked up the vibrations from Patrick Dangerfield, who runs into the post as the ball passes the one opposite – giving the illusion it has brushed the padding in the process.

In this instance it might actually be a case of the technology working, but the people operating it misinterpreting the information provided to them.

Human error has certainly been a common contributing factor in previous controversial goal review decisions.

Footage from AFL Edge during the Geelong v Adelaide game in round 15 of the 2019 AFL season.
There is daylight between the ball and post, yet you can see Patrick Dangerfield brushing past the opposite post – is this what’s showing on AFL Edge?

I don’t think the AFL can shut down the system immediately, as it would create an unlevel playing field due to matches so far having been impacted by score review decisions.

All teams need to play out the rest of 2019 under the same conditions.

But as soon as the season is done and dusted, the AFL must take an axe to the score review technology.

Smash it, bury it, whatever needs to be done to rid the game of it until a working system can be implemented.

The AFL is not a mickey mouse competition – it is a big money industry, with clubs, fans, players, staff and stakeholders heavily invested in it.

Why then does the AFL continue to use a flawed mickey mouse score review system?

The fact so much airtime is being taken up by this issue proves enough is enough – the AFL must bite the bullet at season’s end and fix this problem once and for all.

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Grady grew up in Bordertown in the state’s South East, around 10 minutes from the Victorian border, and is a Geelong Cats tragic and a lover of sports. Grady has worked in the journalism field for more than six years at a number of regional newspapers. He plays cricket for Trinity Old Scholars, and doesn’t mind teeing it up at some of the fantastic golf courses scattered across Adelaide and its surrounding regions.