Eagles vs Lions: Are the Umpires with West Coast?
What a thrilling game at the Gabba last Sunday, with one of the best finishes I have seen! As a Lions supporter, I was high-fiving at home, but kicking myself that I wasn’t at the ground.
That will teach me, like a number of Lions supporters not to attend due to nasty weather and thinking we would not be competitive.
The other reason I did not attend is that I just get so frustrated at the hammering the Lions have had over the last couple of years from the umpires, although I may be slightly biased!
While the Lions were very competitive in the first half, and took a well-deserved lead into half-time, the game changed in the third quarter.
Yes, the Eagles were a lot more competitive, but suddenly the umpires were very noticeable. Free kicks 10 to two (yes, in one quarter), with the Eagles getting three goals from free kicks.
Enough to change the game, and the Eagles to take the lead into the last quarter. Then a change again, the last quarter saw only four free kicks (yes, in one quarter) as the umpires swallowed their whistles and let the game flow to a thrilling climax.
After recovering from the celebration of a great weekend for the footy underdogs, I watched the Brisbane versus West Coast replay, with an unemotional mind and a constructive view of how the umpires contributed to a great game of football.
I recorded the free kicks into the following categories for each team; frees for, frees wrong (the free kick should not have been given), frees doubtful (‘what was that free kick for’ category) and frees missed (obvious a free should have been given).
While this was a very subjective exercise, I took into account the commentator’s opinions and the basic principle of a penalty, the player must have done something wrong (according to the rules) in order to get a free kick awarded against him.
The results were surprising, and in summary, the four things I realised:
1. The umpiring was more consistent than I thought. Except for two doubtful free kicks for the Eagles in the third quarter that resulted in goals, there is consistency.
I noted that the umpires received some feedback at half-time, as the 3rd quarter was umpired in a different fashion to the rest of the game.
2. The Eagles are very disciplined at not giving away frees. To only give three free kicks in a half of football is quite remarkable.
Yes, I noted the the umpires missed a few, but the concentration levels of the Eagles players to do the tackling correctly (particularly when everyone is tired late in the game) shows the Eagles as a very professional and well-coached team.
3. The Eagles use free kicks to win games. This year’s stats for average frees for and against difference, shows the Eagles well ahead of the rest of the teams.
They are averaging 3.5 frees better the next team and a whopping 11.2 frees better than the lowest team’s average. That’s enough difference to win games, particularly if the outcome of the free is a goal.
4. The game will change based on the Eagles. The Eagles’ method of ducking the head and getting a free kick has been well-documented.
But other teams cannot ignore it and are likely to adopt similar methods. If you can use the rules to your advantage then it’s going to help you win you games.