Let’s
be clear about yesterday’s finish to the Fremantle-St Kilda AFL match: the only way the
umpires could have robbed Freo more would be to have had the emergency umpire
going through the Dockers’ wallets in the changing room while they were out on
the ground.

There
were two aspects to the fiasco that stood out, for us.

One
was the classic arrogance of officialdom. The umpires’ biggest fault was not to
fail to hear the siren, it was their unwillingness to listen to the people they
were there to officiate.

Plenty
of Freo players heard the siren – and we suspect Saints too – with the Dockers
trying repeatedly to bring umpire Mathew Nicholls’ attention to the fact.

At
that stage, with half a dozen or more players waving and yelling at him,
Nicholls’ options were clear. He could blow his whistle to start “time on” and
take a moment to listen to the Dockers, at which point he could have confirmed
that the game had finished. Or he could completely ignore everybody and bounce
the ball. Through everything, the umpires were too busy following “their
processes” to take the rest of the world into account.

But
the most disappointing aspect of the whole thing? St Kilda taking the two
points. Coach Grant Thomas and the St Kilda brainstrust should be ashamed. In ethical
terms, it’s no different to realising a café has accidentally given you change
for $50 instead of the $20 you gave them, and then sliding out of the shop
instead of pointing out the error.

It
was disingenuous for Thomas to say later he was “bamboozled” by the entire match.
Every coaches box has a TV monitor which shows the clock counting down, so
Thomas can’t claim he thought the game had time to run, audible siren or not.

Freo
coach Chris Connolly has already said he would have “declared” the result
wrong, if the situation was reversed.

One
thing’s for sure, Thomas and his assistants can now forget about preaching
loftily about “character”, that intangible but valued personality trait that
clubs endlessly demand of their players.

Peter Fray

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