Coburg entered their Round 14 VFL home clash against Sandringham without a win for the season. When the Zebras, fresh off a victory against the defending premiers the week earlier, took a 32 point lead into the final change, it looked as though the Lions winless start to 2018 was certain to continue.
The Lions weren’t to be denied though and on the back of a 6.3 to 0.1 run the Lions hit the front with the game deep in time on. With the home fans on the edge of their seats and the timekeeper inching towards sounding the final siren to end both their tension and the Lions winless streak, St Kilda rookie-listed player Doulton Langlands earned a free-kick for the Zebras.
With anxious fans and players alike assessing Langlands’ chances of kicking an after the siren game saver, the umpire’s whistle sounded once again to award the Zebras a 50-metre penalty. Amid chaotic scenes, and in the face of desperate Lion pleas, the umpire advanced Langlands 50 metres closer to goal. The 18-year-old Saint made no mistake and tied the scores as the siren sounded to end the contest.
As the players trudged off the ground with the eerie feeling that only a draw elicits, many fans and even the Sandringham live twitter commentary were still unaware as to the cause of the 50-metre penalty. They were soon to learn that the Coburg’s maiden victory was heartbreakingly ripped from their grasp due to a trainer crossing the mark in a desperate bid to tend to an injured Lion as Langland’s prepared to take his kick.
In the wake of such a devastating finish, taking to Twitter, Coburg responded with a level of class not often seen in such circumstances. Proud of their players’ efforts, they were keen to point out the positives of their team fighting back in the face of injuries to almost claim a famous comeback victory.
“The morning after the draw…,” they addressed their followers. “How proud we are of our players who fought out the game incredibly well to hit the front in the dying moments,” they continued. “To be in a position to win with two less rotations due to injuries….amazing effort!!!” they exclaimed.
As pleased as they were with the performance and as disappointed as they were with the final result, they were keen not to level the blame at the feet of their training staff. “Also our medical/trainer team are well supported and we stand by their side today more than ever as they were just doing their job as instructed,” they said in support of their support team.
While their support for their players and officials may not be that surprising, what they had to say about the umpires may have been. “The Umpires too, were just doing their job and called it the way they saw it at the time,” the Lions said of the whistleblowers. Faint praise perhaps but an incredibly measured response given the situation. “It’s a shame that we didn’t get the 4 points but we now move on with greater motivation for next week,” they vowed. “Go Lions.”
In today’s age of scapegoats and umpire blaming it was a classy response by a club in the wake of an unusual and painful end to the match. As proud as the club is of their players and staff, they have equal reason to be delighted with their own reaction. Where others may have made a bad situation worse with a petulant response, Coburg can walk away from this with their heads held high.