10 hours ago
Off the Wall
This weekend - so far - has confirmed what we essentially have known for some time...the premiership race is as open as it has been in years.
That more than ever means we need the referees, and video referees, to be consistent in their rulings. Not a tough ask, but watching the weekend's matches you would think it was just too hard an ask.
The debate during the week about whether the game is getting too "soft" was interesting.
But it is not the biggest challenge we face as we edge very close to what will be a highly competitive finals series - something the AFL can only dream about.
I worry, and this weekend's game simply strengthen my concerns, that referees, and to a lesser extent video referees, are just not being consistent enough when it comes to deciding on head high tackles in particular - and on any other number of infringements.
Incidents have gone totally unchecked in one game which have resulted in a penalty and often a player being put on report in another.
Why? Well the standard of refereeing is a problem - but that cannot be fixed significantly this season. There is a second reason that can be dealt with.
Far too many players have become "dobbers" by putting pressure on referees to penalise an alleged incident, complaining about tackles and so on.
It is getting right out of hand. And there are a few players who are serial offenders when it comes to complaining about others.
The referees - or most of the referees - need to make it very clear to players that they don't need their help when assessing whether or not foul play has occurred.
And if they persist, use the sin bin!
We are on the cusp of a finals series that should give Channel Nine outstanding ratings - and there should be better than usual crowds.
And there will be a reasonable "balance" in that teams from Queensland, Victoria, NZ and Sydney (and possibly regional NSW) will make the final eight.
We just need the referees, and other officials, to get it right within reason. This weekend we saw too many decisions that were not only wrong, but clearly wrong.
One hopes Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper can address that in the next couple of weeks - and make sure we have consistency in decision making as far as possible.