Round 10 – Geelong v Port Adelaide: the Pedant’s Lament

What a cracking game of football. Two finals bound teams went hard at the footy all night. The margin was never greater than two goals and Geelong’s refurbished stadium finally looks and sounds like a vibrant modern sporting arena. The best player in the comp kicking the winner in the shadows of the final siren. What’s not to like?


There could be plenty of talking points from the game. Is Geelong’s midfield run too predictable to really challenge for a premiership? Can Port keep up this pace all season? If Robbie Gray soccering the ball forward towards the boundary demonstrated sufficient intent to keep the it in, then what doesn’t? Conversely, why did the umpires allow him to be repeatedly monstered at full forward in the last quarter? Where has Daisy Pearce been all our lives? Is Thursday night footy outside school holidays really a good idea?


All good questions, even if I do say so myself. However, there is really only one question that will be asked out of this game: did the umpire get the play on call on Charlie Dixon right?


The case for the affirmative:
– The umpire was watching the shot clock and called play on the moment it hit zero.
– The umpire had warned Dixon when there was eight seconds remaining.
– The umpire should stick to the rules, even if others have been lax in their enforcement.


The case for the negative
– Umpires rarely enforce the 30 seconds. David Mundy took 35 seconds against Richmond just a week ago. Selective enforcement of the rules is a tool of oppression.
– Dixon was already seven seconds down when he got off the deck after a heavy marking contest. He was further impeded by the umpire stopping him to correct his line.
– Geelong players were already within the protected area when the umpire called play on (see earlier point about selective enforcement of the rules), further reducing Dixon’s time.


How do we decide this? Well go to the Laws of Australian Football, of course. What, the 2017 laws aren’t actually on the AFL website? Odd! Ok, here we go, AFL Community Club, of course. Just like how the MCC keep the current laws of cricket on a completely different website. Oh, that’s right, of course they don’t.


Not to worry, now we can consult the laws of the game. There’s a picture of the Bont holding the premiership cup, lovely. Righto, Law 12 – Scoring: Goals and Behinds. No, nothing there about a shot clock. Not to worry. Law 16, then, Disposal From Mark or Free Kick. There’s a section on kicking for goal, good. But absolutely nothing on time limits.


So it must be Law 17: ‘Play On’ and the Advantage Rule. Here we go, 17.2(f): “The field Umpire shall call and signal ‘Play On’ where a Player, awarded a Mark or Free Kick, fails to dispose of the football when directed to do so by the field Umpire”.


Is that it?


How can we possibly have an argument, constructive or otherwise, about whether the umpire got it right when there appears to be nothing in the Laws of Australian Football? Clearly people are given written instruction; umpires and time keepers. But why aren’t we, the fans? Why aren’t all instructions that relate to the implementation of the laws made readily available so supporters have the opportunity to understand what they are seeing? It couldn’t have anything to do with accountability, could it?


The pedant’s lament!


About Dave Brown

Upholding the honour of the colony. "Play up Norwoods!"


  1. Rulebook says

    Dave astounding point and it is ridiculous that the laws of the game are so hard to find and that there are virtually 2 rule books ( a scary thought for many ) 1 which can be found and the 2nd the interpretation of that rule handed out sceperately and is seemingly like the free masons secret.As a umpire I thought it was a correct call and in reality,Dixon got what he deserved it was dumb dumb dumb whether the Cats players encroached the protected area early is the debatable point

  2. John Butler says

    Dave, you’re missing one crucial point. Why would you bother to put the rules on public record when you reserve the right to fiddle with them whenever circumstances make it convenient? Or you need to cover a stuff up?

  3. Dave,
    not sure the Geelong players encroached. I think they might have seen Dixon was about as cognisant of his surroundings as man who has just sucked a bong the size of a cooling tower at a nuclear plant. Footy is, at this level, at these moments, about awareness. Hyper-awareness. Stoners need not apply.
    Good point about the rules, though. What time did you hit the hay?

  4. Good point about the Rules. Its getting farcical.

    But the big joke for Port last night was not poor old Dixon, who didn’t react quickly enough, but Westoff’s miss earlier from about 15 metres out. Looked like he was having a kick in the park with his dog.

    The monstering of forwards is also a problem. Hawkins gets it every week. Blokes hanging off his head and shoulders. He looks like a kids’ play ground sometimes.

  5. The only rules in the AFL are “There are no rules”.

    There is no other sport in the world which changes the interpretation of its rules from week to week. And this is just accepted! Coaches are on record as saying they watch Friday night footy to see which rule will be “the rule of the week” (i.e. which rule will the umps be focusing on?). It is ridiculous and confusing.

  6. AJC and Dips showing the Catmanac still has a few gasps left in it. Rulebook’s hatred of Port knows no bounds. I’d like someone to put the stop watch on some videos of Tex going back further than Shoaib Akhtar for his run up. That would change his opinion.
    The Dixon decision defied all common sense and precedent in recent umpiring (save “look at me” umpiring to the baying mob on the KP terraces). Technically correct? Marginally. But why didn’t they blow play on with Mundy last week.
    Because the player was clearly trying to compose himself and focus for an important shot. He was not running down the clock. If we are going to have rigidly technical umpiring with no subjective sense of fairness and the intent of the rules – we may as well have them algorithmically interpreted from a video screen. (Hope Ch7 isn’t listening – it’ll be part of the next rights deal).
    Port were robbed.

  7. Dave Brown says

    Thanks for read and the comments, all. I think there’s no doubt Geelong players were within 10m of Dixon laterally and one ran across closer than 5m behind him, Rulebook. However, I reckon I’ve seen that rule enforced once this season despite seeing it all the time, so the question of precedent bobs its ugly mug above the parapet. It’s interesting that it’s commonly enforced in the SANFL where 25m is seen, perhaps, as a more fitting penalty.

    Reckon the second last sentence covers it, John. If the AFL published the interpretation guidance they would then be accountable for them, as much as they are ever accountable for anything, anyway.

    Not too late a night, AJC. Advantage of being in SA, you get an extra half an hour for yelling at clouds post-match.

    Port friend of mine is convinced Westhoff had the yips last night, Dips (hey, that rhymes) and would have taken any opportunity to hand that off if it presented. The Gray monstering probably stood out more because (Port lost) they were genuine one on ones.

    It’s the infantalisation of the general footy public that infuriates me, Smokie.

    Will go to the video on Tex for you this weekend, PB. I was at Norwood v Glenelg at the Parade last Friday night and timed Liam McBean at 45 seconds. Surprised more players haven’t caught onto the Robbie Nahas method – run back 50 metres and then spend 45 seconds walking in. I’ve never seen Port fans so angry but this comes at the end of them being on a series of lop sided counts whenever they leave Adelaide.

  8. Dan Hansen says

    The first thing I did post game was go to the rule book. So many questions. When does the shot clock start? When does it stop? If the umpire brings the player around on the angle does that add a few seconds? If a player is winded or groggy or loses a boot, does this change anything?

    I found the rule book online and couldn’t find the 30 second rule anywhere in it.

    I don’t know if the umpire was right or wrong as I don’t simply know the intricacies of the rule.

  9. Rulebook says

    Danny did at least ring the rule book.PB as I said I thought it was fair but other times it is not called,Dixon was dumb re the time he was trying to waste it wasn’t the final minute just kick the bloody goal.Dave I reckon the umpire felt sorry for McBean last Fri night and just wanted to let him feel he needed to wear his boots and I think your correct re the SANFl with the 25 metre penalty means it is payed more re encroachment Robbie Gray was just as dumb playing for free kicks last night he caused the contact last night several times he is better than that just go for the ball anc let the defender panic

  10. Thank DB. It was a great, tight tussle. Lots of questions around the Chas. incident. As Dips noted that Hoff miskick was odd, and equally significant. It reminded me of the commentator’s description of Kiwi cricketer Bob Cunis- “neither one thing nor the other.”

    How is it that Geelong has three home games on the trot? is this connected to the new stand? Just curious.

  11. Usual Friday morning tour of the Central Market revealed even Frootloops supporters in full sympathy with the “we wuz robbed” Port feelings. Common sense has left the building it seems, I do not recall this rule being enforced once since the start of last year. However, I have observed many players going well over the limit. It is quite easy to watch the game clock on Channel 7 and watch the 30 seconds count down after a mark. In particular Ben Brown and Buddy Franklin seem to get nigh on 40 seconds at times. Geelong seem to have their own umpires and ’twill be of great interest to see how the Frootloops go next Friday…

  12. I think in general the umpires give the players some leeway on that rule…but if they see what is in their view a deliberate attempt by a player to milk the clock then occasionally they will enforce it…down to the umpires judgement i believe.just as it is with deliberate kicking or hand-balling out of bounds and making no attempt to keep the ball in play.

  13. Dave Brown says

    Sounds like you and I were doing the same thing last night, Dan (although I suspect I was a bit less angry). So many opinions on Twitter and I just kept saying ‘how do we know?’

    Alex did a fantastic job on McBean, RB. Having the new guy loose at CHB certainly helped too. At the end of the day Gray should have won that last one on one – he had his opponent out of position and should have ensured that he either took the mark or got a free for front on contact. Nonetheless he was pretty hard done by.

    Geelong must have incriminating photos of Gillon, Mickey. They were handed a draw last year that ensured they made the top four and get three consecutive home prime time matches when their revamp is done. And to have Dangerfield land in their lap, kissed on the proverbial!

    With a Crows hat on they may just be the greatest beneficiary of this schemozzle, Bucko. Everyone will be watching the umps next Friday night.

    That is an important point, Dave. The umpire could have reasonably considered Dixon was attempting to milk the clock because he was. Discretion in this instance takes us into these murky waters, though.

  14. Stefan Z says

    The differentiator at the AFL level is awareness and decision making. Dixon failed. He needed to be aware of the rule, even though it may be one of Doug and Dinsdale’s unwritten ones. He needed to be aware that the shot clock was brought in precisely to stop time wasting in the final minutes of close games. He needed to be aware that the shot clock was right in front of him. He decided to ignore them all and paid the price.

    Now if we could get an intentionometer displayed on the scoreboard whenever the ball approaches the boundary, we could equally clear up this year’s hottest topic.

  15. Nice Point! It’s hard to argue with that.
    I personally like the thursday night games because I com home tired from tennis.
    I also like it because that means more footy.
    It is better then all of this Holiday Horrors Crap.
    I had a Friday night game and I didn’t want to be tired for that so I went to bed at 3 quarter time.
    My Grandpa told me what happened, my teacher and other Port supporters did as well.
    They were pretty sure they got robbed.
    There is 1 Geelong supporter, he was pretty happy.
    Hopefully that doesn’t happen to the Crows tonight.
    Nice report!

  16. My understanding is that a shot after the siren is not subject to the shot clock. In general play he has thirty seconds to start his run up, after which he cannot be called to play on. This is easily exploited, see Ben Brown and Adam Saad. All Dixon had to do was go back another ten metres and walk in nice and slow. Dixon had a clock on the screen just off to his left, fact is Geelong players were on the ball and made sure the umpire called play on when the clock ran out. Everyone is saying they were lucky but in reality they made their own luck, they were aware of the situation and they took their chances. Port had six scoring shots to three in the last quarter, they should have had it in the bag before the Dixon thing.

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