FEARLESS 2021 – Round 11: Sir Doug Nicholls Round

It appears that the umpires are in a no-win situation. How many sports have their rules changed during the season and in addition, at the end of the season? The AFL thinks it knows what it is doing. I would like to differ with my opinion, as the game is getting more confusing to follow and the interpretations of the rules follow likewise. The game at the lower levels struggles to attract umpires. Those that undertake this role are hopefully spared abusive behaviour from fans. Yes, I get that anyone is entitled to an opinion and they’re entitled to express it. That’s not the point.


The intense media spotlight on the games and the results is there for all to see (at last count, I believe more than 1300 journalists cover it, of which I am not one! Less people cover politics I am led to believe!). Add to this the voices of social media just to cause a pile-on of further opinions.


Then what is the way to interpret prior opportunity? How come tackles aren’t consistently rewarded? How does an umpire know if a player is deliberately heading for the boundary? Holding the ball, should be easy to interpret, but no, even confusion reigns here. How in God’s name is it plausible to change the rules mid-season? Or even to change focus on interpretation of a particular rules as the season progresses. Why include the coaches’ opinions in your analysis? Winning is their objective, not sour grapes due to questionable umpiring calls. I once saw a World Cup game post-match interview with a side that had just been eliminated – the players and coaches all blamed the umpires? What? Yes – is that what we want in the AFL?


My framework is simple. Assess umpiring annually as part of a review as would normally happen. Float a prospective list of ideas for improvements of the game only at season’s end. Feedback from fans, coaches, players alike. Set any potential changes in place. Voting panel of ex-players, fans, ex-umpires, ex-Coaches (chaired by Malcolm Blight for example) to determine whether any changes to go ahead via the vote. Preservation of the essentials of the game (refer Kevin Bartlett as the Keeper of the Flame!) then either change or don’t change before the start of the season ONLY. ONLY. ONLY. Once the first ball is bounced in the Pre-season Games test out the proposed rule changes. If the proposed rule changes don’t work, then scrap them until they can be reworked for subsequent seasons. ONCE the actual season has started, NO rule changes until the end of the season. NO Mid season tweaks, no rule changes mid-season and if the coaches complain or the media identities complain then tell them politely to put a sock in it until the end of the season. This flexibility to make changes is TOTALLY WRONG. THE AFL IS FULL OF PEOPLE SERVING IN SELF JUSTIFICATION ROLES…give them the brunt of the COVID19 cost cuts!


The game and the umpires deserve better.



Round 11: Sir Doug Nicholls Round – Covid footy with crowd backing track…



A sour note to kick off Indigenous Round as the Dees were not allowed to wear a predominantly RED Indigenous jumper. A clash with the Dogs’ Royal Blue? Ultimately, it didn’t matter as the Dees did as they pleased, defending and attacking at will en-route to a solid 28pt win in the soulless top-of-the table clash. The Dogs looked off the boil. The Dees looked the real deal. Macrae 36, Clarry Oliver 33.



According to one media punter, the Collingwood-Geelong game was the worst game ever played and he wanted his two hours back. Another one concurred! Names withheld. Bucks might have the intel but the Pies aren’t using instinct, a key in any footballer’s arsenal. 1.11 to three quarter time – seriously? Cats should’ve won by the length of the Flemington straight, not 10pts. Pies 5.4 in the last to add respect??




A daytrip to BrisVegas allowed the GWS to wither on the vine, or in their case, the beanstalk. The Lions are on fire and Charlie Cameron followed his Indigenous dance with a scintillating display to be only upstaged by the AFL’s equivalent of Vyvyan from The Young Ones – Mitch Robinson – four goals, 30 touches. The Giants’ injury list haunted them. Lions home by 64 points, led all day. Taranto 36, Zorko 35, two goals.




Speaking of games that didn’t reach great heights, the Saints and the Roos squared off at Marvel at Saturday twilight. The Saints had some respect to regain and did so in an unconvincing manner. Max King had been well held by Ben McKay, but the Saints thru returning Luke Dunstan managed to hold sway for most of the game. Five goal last quarter by the Roos offered some respectability. Saints by 20 points.



Due to Covid, the Gold Coast hosted Hawks at the SCG, rather than TIO in Darwin. Whilst the Suns lost out off the field to build their fanbase, they won out on the field by 37 points in a mature display, leading all night. Rankine and King four each, Miller, Ellis and Lukosius led the stats. Dylan Moore continued his fine year with two goals for the Hawks, as did Big Boy. Suns shine at night at the SCG.



The game was probably going as most expected as the Eagles led the Bombers by 17 points at half time. If what followed was a sign of what’s to come at Tullamarine, then the Truck’s tenure as coach could be assured. A three point Eagles lead was blown away by a ferocious and committed Bombers side that kicked 3.7 to 1.0 in the last to claim a meritorious 16 point win. The Eagles’ bubble at Optus has been popped!



Midway through the last quarter, the Crows looked like they were going to storm away from the Tigers at Giants Stadium on Sunday. It’s not the MCG and the crowd factor was a non-factor. Enter Jack Riewoldt with two goals and one of those courageous marks that seem to run in the family! Just awesome. Presence. Clubs want it in spades. The ship steadied for the Tigers on way to a 28 point win.



Carlton had the Swans’ measure at SCG in the first half. A one point lead the Blues held was a statement of intent. Eddie Betts was up to his old genius and Harry McKay was a powerful, if wayward forward presence. Isaac Heeney and Lance Franklin took the momentum after the half, allowing Tom Papley in for a brief cameo of three goals. Defensively, the Blues didn’t have the answers. Swans home by 22 points.



Port had been wobbly a bit in recent weeks as had Freo for most of 2021. At the Adelaide Oval, Port got to reconnect with their collective ability, proving too good by 46 points. The last four goals put paid to Freo’s late charge, after a rare Nat Fyfe goal got the Dockers to within 22early in the last. Dixon and Powell-Pepper got three and some touch, Ollie Wines’ stellar year continues. Aerially, Freo was a bit poor.




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  1. Rulebook says

    Fearless in general I totally agree with you apart from one thing bloody,KB he was putrid in his role on the rules committee to quote a tigers player who played under his coaching fantastic player but that’s it folks

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