AFL lacks quality umpires: Schwab
Updated: Aug 11
Former AFL umpires boss Peter Schwab believes the standard of AFL umpiring is diminishing because of the lack of talent in it’s ranks, after another weekend dominated by discussion on poor umpiring decisions and questions over the holding the ball rule and interpretation.
Schwab, a former coach and three time premiership player with Hawthorn was head of the AFL umpires department for one season in 2017, and says that some of the inconsistencies in decision making from the team in green may be down to a lack of talent and experience.
“I’m sure the AFL would say we are clear in the instructions we are giving our umpires. But I’d liken it back to players. There are certain players on a list who won’t quite grasp it, and particularly under pressure. I’d expect that’s exactly the same with umpires,” he told Sports Drive on Monday.
“There are some umpires who will grasp it and umpire it accordingly, and there are some who inconsistently can’t deliver on it. There are some very good umpires, some middle of the road umpires and those who are learning their way, and that’s exactly what an AFL list is.
“The best teams are the teams that can have the experience and the understanding with each other, West Coast and Richmond spring to mind. Right at the moment, the umpires aren’t West Coast or Richmond.
“They aren’t a top eight side, in footy vernacular. It’s a group of umpires with discrepancies in ability to umpire the game.”
Schwab’s comments came after further furore on the holding the ball rule and interpretation in Sunday’s match between West Coast and Carlton at Optus Stadium, with several bewildering calls angering footy fans around the country.
One particular free kick against Blues defender Sam Petrevski-Seton gained particular coverage, Jack Darling winning a free kick for holding the ball despite no prior opportunity for the ball carrier, umpire Nathan Williamson penalising him for failing to try to handpass the ball.
Schwab said the inconsistency surrounding holding the ball interpretation was the most frustrating part for fans.
“Petrevski-Seton was tackled, it was a tremendous tackle but he had no prior opportunity. The umpire did wait but I couldn’t see how he could genuinely attempt to get rid of it in the position his arms were held,” he said.
“I thought that had to be a ball up, but then we get the decision that he made no genuine attempt. I think that’s what frustrates viewers and players at times. There is a discrepancy, the discrepancy came about because one umpire decided that Petrevski-Seton didn’t make a genuine attempt.
“So, you have to say it’s an umpires interpretation (of the rule) and you have to say one’s right and one’s wrong. And the Petrevski-Seton one was wrong.”
Schwab said Alastair Clarkson’s comments on holding the ball after his side’s round four match with North Melbourne no doubt altered the interpretation of the rule, it was fraught with danger.
“Alastair has always been one who believes that the tackler should be rewarded more so than those who has the football,” he said.
“Do the AFL react to one coach and not another coach? I don’t think so, but they are smart enough to understand that they have got to listen to what some of the coaches are saying. You’ve got to be careful to make even the slightest adjustment in a season on a law.”
The AFL is yet to publicly address the Petrevski-Seton decision, as well as several other controversial decisions in the match.
IMAGE: Fox Sports.