The dying second’s free kick awarded to Luke Shuey in West Coast’s Elimination Final victory over Port Adelaide has been a hot topic amongst football fans this past offseason. In recent weeks the AFL Umpiring Department put an end to the debate when they notified the aggrieved Port that their season had in fact been ended by an incorrectly blown whistle. This news prompted Gerard Healy to ask Power Coach Ken Hinkley following on 3AW.
Gerard Healy: "Did it make you feel any better when the AFL Umpires Dept came over last week and told you they got the Luke Shuey decision wrong?"
Ken Hinkley: "Next question"
— Sportsday (@SportsdayRadio) March 14, 2018
Hinkley’s answer through gritted teeth simultaneously showed incredible restraint and a still undisguised displeasure at what had taken place last September. While acknowledging Healy’s need to seek the Power mentor’s thoughts on the matter, one has to wonder whether anybody would indeed ‘feel better’ upon finding themselves in a similar situation.
It is hard to see how anybody at all has their feelings improved in the immediate aftermath of this knowledge becoming known, Not that whether it brings comfort or closure should be the factor behind acknowledging errors of this kind. In fact, whether it makes Port fans happy or Eagles fans upset should have zero bearing on whether the football world discovers this information or not.
Despite this, it must be argued that in the long term the spirit of information and accountability in which the Umpiring Department shared their error with Port Adelaide is a step in the right direction of greater happiness in umpiring decisions. While acknowledging that there are some fans that live their lives in a perpetual angst at umpiring decisions and are unlikely to ever be shaken loose of this, a greater understanding of what decisions are right or wrong will help most other fans.
That said, if this remains a one-off mea-culpa or future acknowledgments are made in an ad-hoc manner it will cause further grief without any long-term gain. Unfortunately, history indicates that this will be exactly how the AFL will treat this situation. Heaven forbid that they treat their constituents with a level of respect when it comes to their shortfallings, it easy to imagine that they will instead return to their long-held approach of denying, diffusing and deflecting.
If this is indeed the path that they take in the future, it is bewildering that they bothered doing otherwise in this instance. It also makes the gritted teeth through which Hinkley gave his answer all the more reasonable and understandable.
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