North Melbourne will pay dearly for their humiliating blunder, with the AFL furious about coach Brad Scott’s bombshell umpiring allegation.
The Kangaroos made an embarrassing backdown on Saturday, less than 12 hours after Scott sensationally claimed the umpires had told North players they deliberately did not pay high free kicks to Lindsay Thomas.
Scott and whoever else at North who are at fault are certain to be hit with heavy AFL fines.
The coach was asked after Friday night’s fiery nine-point loss to Hawthorn whether he thought the umpires were treating Thomas unfairly.
Scott replied: “I know he is, because the umpires told our players ‘well he’s a ducker, so we don’t pay high free kicks to Lindsay’.
“They told our guys that.
“That’s clearly a pre-conceived idea.”
The AFL investigated immediately on Saturday morning and the claim quickly unravelled.
“After discussions with its players and the AFL, it has been established conversations between players and staff in-game were misconstrued at the time and, consequently, relayed incorrectly post-game,” North said in a statement.
“We understand and accept these alleged comments did not come from any umpire.
“The club is embarrassed by, and accepts full responsibility for, the situation that has unfolded and unreservedly apologises to the umpires for any distress it may have caused them.”
The AFL acknowledged North quickly withdrew Scott’s allegations and apologised.
But the seriousness of the claim will inevitably mean severe retribution from the league.
“It was a very serious allegation that was made last night, to suggest that umpires would happily just bend the rules for an individual,” AFL operations manager Mark Evans told the ABC.
“It seriously questioned their integrity and the job that they perform.
“I’m pleased they’ve put out an apology today and completely backed away from that statement.
“But my opinion is we all have responsibilities to each other and the game and, prior to making such a serious claim, the club and Brad Scott should have done a much more thorough investigation.
“It’s such a strong claim to make that you would want to be right.”
Evans added the umpiring fraternity was “incredibly offended” by Scott’s comments.
All umpiring comments during matches are recorded and Evans said the review quickly cleared the four men in charge of Friday’s match.
“In fact, there were a couple of exchanges that we thought were handled brilliantly by the umpire,” Evans said.
Evans said he had spoken to North football manager Geoff Walsh several times on Saturday morning, but was yet to have a conversation with Scott.
The AFL will issue North with a formal please explain on Monday.