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Carlton’s thrilling one-point victory over Melbourne last night has reignited the debate over dubious free kicks and sparked calls for stricter punishment against players who exaggerate contact. The Blues’ 9.6 (60) to 8.11 (59) win broke their two-game losing streak but highlighted a crucial umpiring decision that went in their favour during the final quarter.

With just over eight minutes remaining and the Demons trailing by 20 points, Jacob van Rooyen executed what he believed was a textbook tackle on Blues defender Brodie Kemp in Melbourne’s forward pocket. However, the umpire deemed it a dangerous tackle, awarding Kemp a free kick that prevented a potential shot on goal for Melbourne.

Channel 7 commentators Alister Nicholson and Brian Taylor expressed their frustration with the decision during live play.

“A dangerous tackle… I do not know about that,” Nicholson said.

“I reckon Kemp – that’s a classic case of a player deliberately putting his head into the ground,” Taylor added.

SEN’s Kane Cornes and David King discussed the incident on Friday morning after a listener raised the topic.

“It looked like he lunged forward, others are suggesting he didn’t,” Cornes said.

“It’s so hard on the umpires now – this is why I think we need to come up with fines system for the fakers,” King responded. “It was a big moment, it was late in the game, a one-point result – it had all the hallmarks of being a significant call for the umpire.”

Cornes agreed with King’s suggestion of fining players for staging.

“I’d be happy to fine the fakes,” he said simply.

Cornes also suggested that umpires should be more vocal about their roles and decisions, including new umpire boss Steve McBurney, to foster empathy among fans.

The incident quickly ignited a heated online debate, with two Fox Footy experts on opposite sides. Former Collingwood champion Nathan Buckley defended Kemp, arguing that while it should have been a free kick to Melbourne, Kemp was not guilty of staging. West Coast premiership player Will Schofield, however, called the decision “absolutely disgraceful.”

SEN’s Nic Negrepontis also criticized the umpiring on X, writing, “That dangerous tackle call for Kemp might be the worst umpire decision of the year lmao.”

The win gives Carlton a much-needed confidence boost ahead of their match against Sydney next Friday night. Meanwhile, the Demons will look to bounce back against West Coast in Perth next Sunday.