‘Heartbreaking’: Footy world reacts to farce
SOUTH Australia's top AFL league stole headlines across the nation after a dramatic preliminary final was marred by an extraordinary scandal.
On Sunday during the SANFL preliminary final, North Adelaide pulled off a stunning comeback victory over the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles and booked their spot in the grand final where they'd take on Norwood for the premiership.
After the game, however, an official protest was lodged by the Eagles after it was picked up that North Adelaide had an extra man on the field for the opening four minutes of the final quarter, when their comeback got underway.
Eagles officials are understood to have complained to a reserve umpire and interchange stewards about North's extra player, a breach that could be penalised by wiping their entire score.
But under SANFL rules, only a captain or acting captain can ask an on-field umpire for a headcount of players to officially determine an extra-man breach, which didn't happen.
The moment has divided opinions among the football community with former player Campbell
Brown delivering a hard-line stance on the matter.
"The final margin was five-points and they scored seven (eight) points while there were 19-men so I would take it off of them," Brown said on Channel 7's Talking Footy.
His stance was questioned by fellow panellist Sam McClure, but Brown stood by his hard line take and labelled what they did as cheating.
"It's a form of cheating if you've got 19-men running around and you're kicking scores and you win by five points," Brown added.
Of course, not everyone agreed with this as many also believed the rules in place, no matter how archaic they may seem, need to be followed.
The decision was handed to the SA Football Commission before it was ultimately sent to the SANFL Tribunal where retired Supreme Court judge Hon. Michael David QC overlooked proceedings.
Both clubs were invited to attend the hearing and make submissions, but once a decision was made no side would be able to appeal.
After an extraordinarily long five-hour hearing, a ruling was handed down with the Tribunal
ultimately deciding that despite the 19-man advantage, North Adelaide would be taking part in this coming weekend's grand final against Norwood.
The club was handed a $10,000 fine and will be docked four-premiership points in season 2019.
Eagles chief executive Luke Powell admitted the tribunal's ruling was a hammer blown to his players and club.
"We went through the process which the commission gave us the opportunity to do," he said, according to The Adelaide Advertiser.
"It is heartbreaking for our players, sponsors, supporters and members.
"But we are a resilient football club and will bounce back. It will take a while the boys and coaching staff to get over the disappointment.
"All we can do is wish the North Adelaide Football Club all the best in the grand final and hopefully it is a great result for the SANFL."
The ruling drew the ire of football fans who slammed the Tribunal for taking a painstakingly long time to hand down what amounted to a slap on the wrist.
SANFL had to either award the game to Woodville or give green light to North Adelaide ... to find North Adelaide negligent then sweep the problem into next season a massive cop out. Bring in the lawyers.— Mark Stevens (@Stevo7AFL) September 17, 2018
Surely a $19,000 dollar fine would have been more appropriate? #sanfl— Julian Schiller (@Julesschiller) September 17, 2018
The day SANFL lost it's credibility. Weak— BrisbanePuntingCompany (@BrisbanePuntCo) September 17, 2018
I can only describe this as a gutless and abhorrent decision by the #SANFL. North Adelaide nor Woodville-West Torrens would not care less about the repercussions for next years fixture, they just want to play this weekend. https://t.co/EQ3ePz9HIO— Lachie Kilby (@LachieKilby) September 17, 2018
'AN ABSOLUTE UNFATHOMABLE DISGRACE'
Eagles ruckman Seb Guilhaus posted a furious response on Facebook, which he later deleted.
"For a period of time during today's game, North Adelaide had 19 men on the field and during that time they scored 8 points … we lost by 5 points," Guilhaus wrote.
"Furthermore the free kick count was 30 to North and 17 to Eagles … the combination of the '19 man cheat' and the rigged umpiring is a clear sign that the SANFL wanted North to get through in order to maximise grandfinal attendance as woodville has a much smaller support base.
"For the SANFL not to correct the ruling of victory is an absolute unfathomable disgrace … the sway of finances has trumped the basic rules of the great game which so many hold dear.
"There are literally no words … please share this post as many times as possible … there are lawyers looking at the fine print as we speak!"
But North CEO Greg Edwards fired back, tweeting: "I've had enough. Instead of Eagles players and some media calling us cheats for a 3 minute interchange accident, shouldn't they ask themselves how we kicked 12 goals in row (7 after this incident) in a prelim. Go Roosters!!"
Wow, I've had enough....Instead of Eagles players and some media calling us cheats for a 3 minute interchange accident, shouldn't they ask themselves how we kicked 12 goals in row (7 after this incident) in a prelim....Go Roosters!!— Greg Edwards (@gregedwards1725) September 16, 2018