Free-kick charity begins at home in Perth: Alves
Former St Kilda coach Stan Alves believes there is a systemic umpiring bias towards West Coast and Fremantle in matches played at Perth’s Patersons Stadium.
The Eagles’ 25:17 advantage in the free-kick tally on Saturday against Essendon was the fifth lopsided result in nine matches against visiting opposition. The Dockers have fared even better, winning the free-kick tally in seven of their nine non-derby matches at home.
For the season, West Coast has won 20 more free kicks – 195-175 – than it has conceded at home, while Fremantle’s advantage has been much more pronounced at 207-155.
Overall, in non-derby matches at Patersons Stadium this year, the West Australian teams have won 402 free kicks compared with their opponents’ 330.
This issue was raised a fortnight ago by Richmond coach Damien Hardwick after the Tigers lost the free-kick tally 14 to 30 against the Eagles. He said nine of those free kicks gave the Eagles shots at goal.
Hardwick made a point of not criticising the umpires directly at the time but did stop to ponder whether the West Coast dominated crowd of more than 38,000 persuaded the whistle-blowers to make a few decisions.
”I can’t comment on the umps. What was it 30-14 and I think they had nine shots at goal from free kicks?” Hardwick said.
”There’s no doubt some of them were there and we’ve got to get better in some of those situations. But you’ve got to give credit to the West Coast crowd.
”They make a big noise at certain stages of the game and there’s no doubt the influence they have over the people out there is significant.”
Alves said yesterday that the fantastic spirit with which West Coast and Essendon played at the weekend had been undermined by the umpires.
”They can say what they like but they are influenced by the crowd. They were so lop-sided and the decisions that went West Coast’s way in that game infuriated me,” Alves told ABC Radio yesterday.
”There is no doubt that when that crowd gets going [the umpires are swayed]. I’m a bit biased here because it takes me back to when I coached. It fair dinkum got into your head over there [in Perth] that if you didn’t get a good start … the umpires just go with the flow and it’s worth four or five goals to them.”
During Alves’ five-year coaching career, which ended in 1998, the Saints won only three of their eight matches in Perth.
One particular decision in Saturday’s match, which involved Eagle Josh Kennedy kicking a goal despite clearly taking the ball over the boundary line immediately beforehand, drew the ire of North Melbourne chairman James Brayshaw.
Brayshaw explicitly rejected the suggestion West Coast and Fremantle receive favourable treatment from umpires when playing at home. He instead lamented that boundary umpiring was ”often done astoundingly badly” in the AFL.
In that incident cited on the Sunday Footy Show, Kennedy shrugged a tackle from Essendon’s Mark McVeigh deep in the forward pocket and then sprinted towards goal.
While doing so, he twice inadvertently held the ball at least half a metre beyond the boundary line. The resulting goal, the first of the second half, gave the Eagles a nine-point lead.
”It is astounding how far this ball is out of play,” Brayshaw said. ”That is just gross incompetence.”
AFL umpires manager Jeff Gieschen is likely to respond to the apparent blunder in his weekly umpiring review, released every Tuesday.