Has the AFL gotten too hard to umpire?

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Chaisa

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Obviously what happened last night caused a big ruckus. But whille the Hickey call was admittedly probably wrong (he did try to take it on once taking it out of the ruck), part of the problem beyond it being the last minute was that the rules regarding that was changed with little fanfare, hence an otherwise poor decision looking an ATG howler.

That (and a couple of other calls) lead me to the question - given how much the rules rely upon interpretation and the like, is the AFL too hard to umpire? With stuff like deliberate calls, HTB's, etc. they pretty much have to decide whether the opponent could get rid of it, how it was gotten rid of, whether they made "enough intent" to keep it in, etc.

Actually it's not just interpretation, it's also that the game is very 360, played at a pretty rapid pace and all over the ground. Which is to say that the umps not only have to have a decent understanding of the rules the umps have to be very fit and know how to bounce a ball properly. Needless to say that doesn't apply to everyone.

You also had that case with that Collingwood idiot trying to have a crack at the umpire post-game last week, and plenty of abuse on social media and the like. Obviously in-game criticism is part of the theatricals and I think most umpires just wear it, but cases out of the game could potentially chase away wannabee umpires in the future. Which is to say that umpires who might be quality otherwise stay away as they don't want the mental health impact.
 

mxett

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If the ruck grabs the ball from a ball up/in it MUST be called prior opportunity. Otherwise we will see ruckman repeatedly take the ball out of the ruck at the end of close games to waste time
 

master bate

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Last week against the Giants Jayden Hunt took off from half back on a quick counter attack and delivered inside 50 to Fritsch who pretty clearly was spoiled high, 2 umps weren't a chance of getting near the play and the 3rd was on the other forward flank and had an obstructed view.

The SCG is smaller but I can imagine similar happening with a Nick Hind run from half back last night, or Campbell from the Swans.

I think it's worth studying more if 4 umps with a quarter of the ground each would have more success.

As for the actual decision making.

Well hands in the back was a simple rule that's been replaced by a tricky one. Can't grab it out of the ruck and not dispose of it is the same kind of thing, they've made that harder.

Slide rule vs high contact can be a super trick judgment call about whether the player going low was down over the ball first and whether the playing coming in on his feet was doing anything more than flopping.

It's nearly physically impossible to watch the 'stand' on the mark rule and the protected area at the same time.

And I'm not sure the rule of the week culture seems to help the umps. Last week it was all about hands around the forward in the marking contest. So we saw about a dozen of them called, many of which were the forward pushing back hard in to the defender and the defender resting their hands on the forward because they have no where else to go.
 

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master bate

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If the ruck grabs the ball from a ball up/in it MUST be called prior opportunity. Otherwise we will see ruckman repeatedly take the ball out of the ruck at the end of close games to waste time
The other team can either win the hit out or just wait until the rucks had prior to tackle them. It's not like the ruck can just hold it forever.
 

Mofra

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If the ruck grabs the ball from a ball up/in it MUST be called prior opportunity. Otherwise we will see ruckman repeatedly take the ball out of the ruck at the end of close games to waste time
It used to be until they changed the rules.
Hickey took steps in that last contest after grabbing it out of the ruck though which is why it was the wrong call - by running with the ball, that constitutes his prior opportunity.
 

The Punter

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Having enough umpires to get a good view of everything is a simple fix - it's a question of resources.

A more significant problem is umpires being called on to interpret intent. The rules should be simplified so umpires need to only adjudicate on what they see, not what they perceive the player is thinking.
 

Mofra

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The controlling umpire now has to watch the man on the mark to make sure they don't move, while also watching the player with the ball to call play on as soon as they step off the line, as well as watching every opposition player running past to check if they in the 'protected zone' while also watching to see if they are just following an opponent.

As long as we employ umpires who have four eyes all operating independently of each other, umpiring is doable.
 

sherb

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The game is incredibly hard to Umpire especially when you throw in the impact of home crowds and changing interpretations on the fly as the season goes on.
This.

It's easy to criticise the umpires, we all do it, but it must be an incredibly difficult task.

And the game never stays static to give the umpires some breathing space, the AFL changes rules every damn season. :(
 

mxett

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The other team can either win the hit out or just wait until the rucks had prior to tackle them. It's not like the ruck can just hold it forever.
Easier said than done when one side doesn't have a dedicated ruckman due to injury. Hickey took steps after collecting the ball and thqt still wasn't deemed prior opportunity
 

Power Raid

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If the ruck grabs the ball from a ball up/in it MUST be called prior opportunity. Otherwise we will see ruckman repeatedly take the ball out of the ruck at the end of close games to waste time
yep

nothing quite like the 80s when the ruck would smash the ball repeatedly out of bounds, for the last 5 minutes of the game, killing time
 

DFWGrapher

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I can't speak on the AFL exactly, but I think it's tougher in all sports. Players are always getting bigger, stronger, and faster so it's harder to keep track of everything and see everything at once. And no matter what, someone is always going to try to exploit some rulebook loophole. And if you miss a call, everyone everywhere knows it immediately since there are cameras taking in every possible angle of every possible player, and as soon as someone spots a missed call, they're broadcasting their displeasure to the world online. As stated, abuse from a crowd and even from players can certainly play into your mind on future calls.

Can anything be done about it though? In the NHL, they added a second referee to every game a couple decades ago and even that doesn't always help: at times junior referees tend to swallow the whistle so as not to show up their senior partner, leaving the game with little more than an extra body taking up space. The NFL has expanded throughout its history-- no changes since 1978 aside from some preseason experimentation, but video replay is heavily used. MLB hasn't changed since 1952 but is using more video replay and working with computerized strike zone technologies. And of course soccer has their VAR.

So yeah, it's gotten far harder in the AFL I'm sure, but it's harder in every sport.
 

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Piggy Smalls

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I think the main problem with the umpiring is consistency. Captains are constantly having to seek clarification from field umps during quarter breaks as to how the rules are being interpreted during that specific game.

Umpires should be ambient rather than front and centre during games. They’ve become a huge influencer of results and there’s not a lot coaches and players can do about it. I’d rather umps called play on unless the infringement is blatantly obvious but the interpretation of the rules just changes quarter to quarter, week to week to the point where they become too influential of the result.
 

JackFlash

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It's an impossible game to umpire, it has been ever since they had just one. Can you believe they only ever had one bloke do all the officiating? The there was two and then there was three, you have to ask Steve Hocking what's next for the umpires to deal with, i'm pretty sure the fans have no idea! It's a completely different game to what they played as recently as 2010, that's why i believe you cannot compare players, teams or era's of greatness with anyone further back than approximately 2012? As they say in the northern states "Aussie Rules"? "What Rules"?
 

master bate

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I think the main problem with the umpiring is consistency. Captains are constantly having to seek clarification from field umps during quarter breaks as to how the rules are being interpreted during that specific game.

Umpires should be ambient rather than front and centre during games. They’ve become a huge influencer of results and there’s not a lot coaches and players can do about it. I’d rather umps called play on unless the infringement is blatantly obvious but the interpretation of the rules just changes quarter to quarter, week to week to the point where they become too influential of the result.
They should turn the ump mics off and stop giving explanations to players. Captain should be the only one able to talk to the umpire.

Consistency is a myth. They're making hundreds of split second decisions, there's no way to ever have them all consistent, nor should they be. A mistake shouldn't be followed by another mistake just to be consistent.

As for letting the game go - well there needs to be about 20 more holding the man calls each game. The end result once players finally stop scragging will be more free flowing footy, less tackles and in tight holding the balls and the chance for one on one contests and chase down tackles etc that are easier to umpire.

I don't think anyone has mentioned the worst rule so far - Advantage. That's a mess.
 

g_TRAIN

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Yes, it's too hard.

And why does the free kick count always seem to end up massively in favor of one side? It's so frustrating.

Essendon last night were crucified
 

Do the Dew

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One of the simpler fixes is just to give umpires a full time job, with benefits etc, rather than the part-time job it is now. That would make it a much more promising career with actual financial gains, and a corresponding uptick in professionality.

I'm sure some of the $$$ that goes to Gill and sHocking could be redistributed to make this happen.
 

Larry Barnsworth

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+1 for unumpirable.

Too many rules with sub-points that require mind reading
Too much complexity
Too much unknowable - forget the fans, how many times do we see people who should be experts (players and commentators) being caught out as not knowing a rule?

And then there's the rate of change - it's almost a different sport, year on year.

Finally, because it's a professional competition where winning and losing has real implications to people's lives, all the game's actors will push the line on what they can get away with to gain an advantage - to the point of cynicism.

Melt all this up in a pot, and it's an awful lot for three blokes to consistently and uniformly "interpretate", all whilst running a 1/4 marathon; explaining things calmly and then doing an on demand party trick ball bounce.

Tough gig.
 
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Wallaby

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I think the main problem is the endless media coverage, slo-motion replays, discussion designed to create controversy and therefore ratings, fan discussion sites like BigFooty - all these hash and re-hash every nuance and interpretation without ever coming to 100% agreement as to what was the 'right' decision.

The game has been running for well over 100 years - like most major sports around the world. There have been umpiring controversies in all sports for over 100 years. Any sport with body contact has rules open to interpretation.

And every sport is having this exact same discussion right now. And always will.

My solution:

1. Pick the best umpires you can.
2. Admit all umpires are capable of making blues.
3. Do NOT introduce on-field 'challenges' to umpiring decisions. THIS IS BAD.
4. If umpires want to avail themselves of video replays for close decisions that involve a clear white line (like the goal line) - they can choose to do so. Without input from players, capyains or coaches.

(Of course, all the above does not apply to my team's games, where it has been proven that the umpires hate us, our colours make us look more physical, and it's good for the TV ratings for us to lose).
 

LordLucifer

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We don't need more umpires on the field, it's crowded enough as it is.

With the Hickey decision, he made no attempt whatsoever to dispose of it and therefore should have been penalised, it's as simple as that.

The holding the ball rule is the easiest to adjudicate but for some reason, we want to make it really difficult to comprehend.

1. was the tackle legal
2. was the ball knocked out in the tackle
3. did the tackled player try and dispose of it
4. was it a clear kick or handball in the tackle
5. was there prior opportunity (I don't like that aspect of the rule but that is what's in place now)
 

TedDougChris

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Do they still do what the did a few years back, produce a DVD for the clubs of how the rules will be interpreted ??

It's an incredibly complex game to umpire:
- player A bursts out of a pack, someone flings out an arm and brushes a shoulder - is that too high ??
- player B streaks forward, bouncing the ball. blindsided, someone sneaks up behind and tackles. Player B falls forward until the tackle is around his ankles. Is it holding the ball ? Is it tripping ??
- player C is on all fours, trying to get the ball out - someone tries to grab him - so player C flops forward. is it holding, is it in the back ??

It all depends on who it happens to and what team your support ?? Umpires have next to no hope....
 

Cripps 'n' Blue Bloods

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I don't think the Hickey one was that bad. Was a 50/50 call and don't think they necessarily got it wrong, it just could have gone either way.
One of the bigger howlers for me was Reid nearly getting his head taken off going for the mark.
Was a bloody good game and I felt it was umpired reasonably well. A few missed or bad calls both ways.
 

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