Ross Lyon
Ross Lyon coached Harley Balic while at the helm at Fremantle. Image by Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS
  • Australian rules football

AFL has ‘gone too far’ on free-kick clarity, says Lyon

Shayne Hope June 12, 2024

Ross Lyon claims the AFL has “gone too far” with public explanations of contentious umpiring decisions after the league admitted Max King should not have been paid a free kick late in St Kilda’s narrow win over Gold Coast.

King booted the Saints’ match-winning goal in a dour contest last Saturday night when Suns defender Mac Andrew was penalised for holding his opponent in a wrestle for position off the ball.

AFL umpires boss Stephen McBurney came out within 24 hours and admitted the free kick should not have been given to King, while ticking off separate crucial decisions in victories by North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

 A tackle by Mac Andrew (l) on Max King led to the awarding of a controversial free kick. Image by James Ross/AAP PHOTOS 

The league has made a point of trying to be more “transparent” with fans and media around game-related issues this season.

But Lyon isn’t impressed, raising his issue with the move during his regular mid-week press conference on Wednesday.

“I just don’t understand how we emphasise one free kick and talk about that’s influenced the match and that’s the outcome,” Saints coach Lyon told reporters.

“I don’t like that the AFL comes out and clarifies it.

“I’ve been to big finals and moved on (from umpiring decisions), and I just think why is one free kick more important than another?”

Lyon said he often sees vision of King and other forwards being “mauled” behind the ball, and asks the AFL privately for clarity.

“They say, ‘Yeah we missed that one, we missed that one, if there’s one arm around the chest it’s a free kick, it doesn’t need to be two’,” Lyon said.

“So I’m not in agreeance with the AFL coming out and trying to rationalise and settle things down.

“How about there’s a decision made and we all accept it and move on? I just think it’s gone too far.”

McBurney, the league’s head of officiating, on Sunday said King and Andrew were grappling at the crucial moment in St Kilda’s three-point victory at Marvel Stadium and conceded the whistle should not have been blown.

“We totally understand why he’s paid it because he has seen arms around … we just don’t see, with the benefit of all the angles we get, that it was the right outcome for the amount of contact occurring between both players,” McBurney said.

The umpires’ boss also said correct calls were made in Saturday’s matches when West Coast’s Elliot Yeo was penalised for holding the ball and Hawthorn captain James Sicily was bumped after his kick.

The decisions respectively led to crucial goals in North Melbourne’s win over the Eagles and the Hawks’ triumph over Greater Western Sydney.