Why should AFL umpires be protected from criticism?

Carlton's Patrick Cripps is tackled during the match against North Melbourne at The Gabba on Saturday. Photo: Jono Searle/Getty Images
Carlton's Patrick Cripps is tackled during the match against North Melbourne at The Gabba on Saturday. Photo: Jono Searle/Getty Images

Umpires have been a protected species for too long and should be subjected to the same intense scrutiny as everyone else in the game.

If Ray Chamberlain, the publicity-seeking torchbearer of the umpiring fraternity, is more than happy to state his case publicly, then he and his fellow officials deserve to be criticised when it is warranted.

The man known as "Razor Ray" told Melbourne radio station SEN last week he was satisfied with the lopsided free kick count in the Geelong-Collingwood game in round seven (22-10 in the Magpies' favour) and went on to say that on reflection the gap should have been greater.

So while Chamberlain is free to justify his performance in the media, even the slightest criticism of him or his colleagues draws an angry response from the AFL's hierarchy.

The League argues it is hard enough to attract umpires without undue public scrutiny. Coaches and players have been sanctioned and fined - and earlier this month former Port Adelaide midfielder and media commentator Kane Cornes was forced to apologise for comments he made about umpires.

The standard of umpiring continued to be a hot topic last weekend when Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson questioned the lopsided free-kick count in his post-match comments after the loss to Sydney, and his Port Adelaide counterpart Ken Hinkley had a subtle dig at the officials after being defeated by St Kilda.

There was also plenty of discussion about the treatment of Carlton co-captain Patrick Cripps, who was subjected to unfair tactics without being rewarded in the Blues' win over North Melbourne.

The rule attracting much controversy recently has been the adjudication of holding the ball after Clarkson last month urged umpires to reward the tackler and pay more free kicks.

The AFL responded immediately to the Hawks coach's plea, with umpires applying a stricter interpretation of the rule by punishing players who don't make a genuine attempt to dispose of the ball.

Australian Football is a difficult game to officiate with many grey areas in its interpretations and umpires are doing it as tough as anyone else in these challenging times, with their preparation and training affected.

It is important to point out that the AFL sets the guidelines under which umpires make their decisions.

But Chamberlain and his fellow officials have to realise fans don't turn up to watch them. They are not meant to be the centre of attention, they're there purely to do a job and fade into the background, allowing the players to be in the spotlight.

Umpires are an integral component of the sport and their decisions can and do affect results of games.

Hub life a battle for some

Life in hubs around the country has become a necessity for clubs to keep this season alive and it is clear some players, coaches and staff have made the adjustment better than others.

Speaking to coaches and players in the past week, some are thriving in the environment of being much closer to their teammates/colleagues on a daily basis while others are struggling and finding it difficult without friends and family nearby.

Several players, including Geelong veteran Gary Ablett, St Kilda defender Nathan Brown and Carlton youngster Liam Stocker, have returned to Victoria in the past week for personal and family reasons.

Richmond premiership duo Shane Edwards and Bachar Houli have stayed behind in Melbourne for family reasons - Houli's wife gave birth recently and his mother is battling coronavirus while Edwards' wife is expecting next month.

Being on the road for an extended period is tough, especially for the loved ones back home, and family should always come first.

With clubs forced to shed staff as a result of financial pressures brought on by COVID-19, there is less support for everyone in these hubs and this is having an effect, particularly on younger players.

Greene in elite class

Opposition fans love to hate Toby Greene, but there are 17 coaches other than his Giants coach Leon Cameron who would relish having the brilliant small forward at their clubs.

Toby Greene of the Giants marks during the match against Richmond Tigers at Giants Stadium on Friday night. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Toby Greene of the Giants marks during the match against Richmond Tigers at Giants Stadium on Friday night. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Returning to the GWS line-up after being sidelined with an injured shin, Greene showcased his match-winning capabilities with a sublime five-goal display against Richmond last Friday night.

While he receives few favours from the umpires, Greene continually delivers in the clutch moments with some magic around goal.

The determined Giant has a bagful of tricks to trouble the AFL's best defenders - he is strong in the air for his size, has excellent judgement and is a good decision-maker. He can also be most effective when released into the midfield.

Post-match Cameron was effusive in his praise of Greene and on Twitter former teammate Dylan Buckley anointed him the AFL's best player, which is not far off the mark.

Readers' Question of the Week

@MJDavo6 asks via Twitter: Geelong has played attractive, attacking footy at times this season and on other occasions the Cats have been horrible to watch. Why?

Great question Michael, and I suspect Geelong coach Chris Scott wishes he knew the answer. My gut feeling is that the Cats try to adapt to the way the opposition is playing, so it depends on the game plans and personnel on the day. It would be frustrating from a supporter's point of view because Geelong have shown patches of brilliance this season interspersed with some ordinary stuff.

Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com

Twitter: @hpkotton59

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story It's time to put AFL umpires under more scrutiny first appeared on The Canberra Times.