A member of the AFL’s laws of the game committee believes umpires made a “bad error” in awarding a costly 50m penalty against Sydney that gifted Hawthorn a goal in their five-point win.
Swans captain Kieren Jack was controversially penalised for entering the protected zone of Hawk Jonathan O’Rourke right on three-quarter time at the SCG on Thursday night, allowing the visitors to slot a crucial major.
Former Collingwood premiership player Michael Christian, who is on the AFL’s laws committee, said it was a mistake to penalise Jack because he had already been in the protected zone when O’Rourke marked.
“You have to get out of the area immediately but you don’t have to run sideways nor on an angle,” Christian told radio station RSN on Friday morning.
“The rule is designed if you’re outside the protected zone and you run into the protected zone, 50 straight away.
“But when you’re already in there you’ve got to give time to the player to run out.
“I think it was a mistake by the umpire because he was already in there.
“He ran out immediately. He didn’t sprint, but he was going quickly enough to get out of the area, realised he was in there and the whistle blew.
“Bad error, I reckon.”
It was one of two late 50m penalties against the Swans and preceded another given against Ben McGlynn, who was deemed to have entered the protected zone in a dramatic final quarter, leading Jonathon Ceglar to score.
The Twitter hashtag #FreeKickHawthorn went viral as Swans fans vented their frustrations, but AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan reckoned the penalties were “both clearly there”.
“I don’t think anyone’s disputing the 50s were there,” McLachlan told 3AW.
Sydney coach John Longmire wasn’t sure whether the interpretation of the 50m rule had changed, but didn’t intend to seek clarification from the AFL’s umpiring department.
“I don’t know, ask the umpires, I really don’t know to be honest,” Longmire said.
A miffed Longmire did question the game’s uneven free-kick count, which finished at 15-9 to the Hawks but had been more lopsided earlier.
“Obviously we were undisciplined because the free-kick count was 3-13 at three-quarter time,” Longmire said.
“I don’t think I’ve seen a differential like that for quite a while.
“We’ll have to get better at our discipline, clearly, because that’s a big differential.”
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson found the umpiring to be “pretty strong” but observed the obvious challenge with the 50m rule lay in the consistency of its interpretation.