The AFL has conceded a free kick should have been awarded to Brisbane’s Zac Bailey in the dying stages of Friday night’s one-point defeat to Geelong at Kardinia Park.
Bailey laid a tackle on Mark Blicavs a few metres out from the Lions’ attacking goal and spun the Cats defender, who then appeared to get rid of the ball illegally.
But umpire Robert O’Gorman called play on and Geelong hung on for a controversial one-point win.
If the free kick was awarded, Bailey would almost certainly have kicked a goal and won the match for the Lions.
Instead, the Brisbane side sits 0-2 after two rounds.
“Upon review, we acknowledge that it was a missed free kick on this occasion,” AFL head of umpiring Dan Richardson said.
“By attempting to evade the player with the ball, that’s prior opportunity, and as a result the call should’ve been holding the ball.
“Footy is a game filled with split-second decisions from players, coaches and umpires.
“At any given match, umpires are required to make anywhere between 800 and 1,000 decisions per game.
“In this instance, we didn’t quite get this one right.”
Richardson said the AFL’s umpiring department would “wrap the arms around” O’Gorman this week.
There will be no sanction for the experienced O’Gorman, who made his AFL umpiring debut in 2014 and was named as the emergency umpire for last year’s grand final.
O’Gorman will officiate as planned in round three.
“What I know and have seen of the umpires so far is they’re a resilient bunch, Rob included,” Richardson said.
“He understands we’re all human, we make mistakes, and he’s comfortable with us addressing [this issue] on his behalf today and we’ll move on.”
Blicavs said after the match that Bailey had laid a good tackle, but claimed it did not deserve a free kick.
“I didn’t have prior [opportunity]. It was tough,” he told the ABC.
“I picked it up and there was pressure all over. I tried to get it through (for a rushed behind) but the tackle was bloody good, but yeah, we’ll say play on.”
Brisbane coach Chris Fagan refused to buy in post-match, saying he would not comment on the umpiring.
“I haven’t in the four years I’ve coached, so I’m not going to start now; I don’t think it’s constructive,” he said.
Geelong counterpart Chris Scott said he felt for umpires trying to make tough calls in the heat of battle.
“I haven’t had a good look at that, I’ll reserve my opinion on that one until I have a look at it,” he said.
“I got caught up in the emotion right towards the end. I’m a big subscriber to the theory that the game is very hard to umpire.”