Free kick calls put AFL umps in spotlight
AFL umpiring is again under a fierce spotlight after a series of controversial incidents over the weekend raised the ire of fans and commentators.
There were 63 free kicks paid in Hawthorn's upset win over Brisbane - the most in a game since 2012 - amid several contentious calls.
Richmond defender Dylan Grimes' strong tackle on Essendon opponent Ben Hobbs was penalised for being dangerous, while the contentious dissent rule cost Sydney's Chad Warner a 50m penalty.
Melbourne defender Jake Lever said the Grimes penalty did not mean tackling was being umpired out of the game.
"The tackling stuff, it's purely designed to protect the players," Lever said.
"The Dylan Grimes one on Ben Hobbs, that's probably the most talked about one - sometimes if you just see something that's forceful, the umpires are going to blow their whistle.
"But I don't think the tough element of the game is ever going to go out of it. You see players go back with the flight.
"That sort of two-way action is definitely something the umpires and the AFL want to stamp out. We understand that as players - we practise it at training, making sure it's not a dump tackle."
Lever said the Demons had been lucky in avoiding too many 50m penalties for showing umpire dissent.
"The umpires see what they see, they pay the frees," he said.
"As players, we've learned to put our hands up and keep playing the game, because that can really distract you from the way that we play."
The Demons backman defended the umpires, saying they made mistakes like everyone else.
But he also noted that tempers can fray in the heat of the contest.
"Some of the dissent ones, you sit there as a player and go, 'That could have been paid, that couldn't have been paid'," he said.
"But in the end it's purely up to the umpire and what he or she thinks is dissent towards them.
"From what I've gathered, if I get a free kick against me, I'm just going to put my hands up and accept it.
"But at the same time, it's an emotional game and sometimes you get frustrated at your teammates because they've given away a 50 that in previous years wasn't 50. It just has to find that balance."