Sydney coach John Longmire has pleaded with his players to keep their emotions in check after two were penalised for lashing out at the umpires in last week’s loss to Melbourne.
Umpire dissent returned to the AFL agenda in round three when GWS veteran Stephen Coniglio questioned an on-field ruling in the dying minutes against Carlton and was pinged.
The free kick allowed the Blues to seal a 10-point win with a shot from point-blank range, reigniting debate as to whether the AFL polices umpire dissent too severely.
With one eye on the game’s umpire shortage at grassroots level, the AFL announced last April it would begin cracking down on dissent and continues to maintain a tougher stance than rival football codes.
On Sunday, Swans players Will Hayward and Chad Warner’s frustrations boiled over as Melbourne started faster at the MCG, both giving free kicks away for dissent in the first quarter.
Hayward’s outburst marched the Demons upfield where Lachie Hunter parlayed the 50-metre penalty into a 15-point lead.
Hayward told Longmire he had been directing his frustrations at a rival player and not the umpire.
The coach sent a clear message to his players this week.
“It’s too big a penalty, 50 metres is a big penalty so don’t do it,” he said.
“After a decision has been made, you’ve got to get on with it.
“We’ll work on what we can control but as I said to Will, don’t say it to the player. Just move on with it.”
While Longmire said the AFL’s stance was obvious 12 months on from its initial crackdown, he conceded dissent free kicks were costly if the umpire’s initial decision was open to debate.
“The AFL have already come out and made it very, very clear that you can’t say anything,” he said.
“If it’s right, if a decision’s right, I understand it. If it’s on the borderline, it’s a big penalty.”
The Swans host Port Adelaide at the SCG this Saturday and will be looking to overcome a poor recent record against the Power, who have won all of the sides’ last six meetings. Only nine members of Sydney’s 44-man squad were on the books in 2016 when the Swans last beat Port Adelaide.
“We haven’t been consistent for four quarters against them. That’s our challenge,” Longmire said. “You have those things (slumps) against different teams at different times.”
Confidence and not complacency has captain Patrick Dangerfield worried as Geelong weather the worst start to an AFL season by reigning premiers since 1976.
The Cats are mired in a 0-3 hole ahead of the traditional Easter Monday clash against Hawthorn, who are coming off a morale-boosting win over North Melbourne.
But the new Geelong skipper notes that they have been in the hunt through all three games, with 22 points their biggest losing margin.
He also joked they are only one win outside the top eight.
“My experience in Geelong – and I think it’s been Geelong’s experience for a long time – complacency has never been an issue for the club,” Dangerfield said on Tuesday.
“It’s been uber-successful for a long period. We’ve had a lot of change from last year, so there’s a huge amount of hunger.
“The challenge we have at the moment is the confidence, and that’s clear for any team that struggles with consistency and struggles with wins.”
Dangerfield added the solution was not focusing on the 0-3 record, but what they need to do to fix it.
“It’s the process that underpins why you win and lose. We need to make sure we keep looking at that, not just lassoing ourselves to the wins and losses column, it’s the process that underpins it,” he said. “It’s not clicking your fingers – that’s the tough part.
“It feels like there’s a level of frustration in the group that we should be playing better. It would be a different vibe had we been absolutely smoked in every game.”
Dangerfield brushed off any talk that the captaincy was affecting his form and similarly dismissed a question about whether alarm bells were ringing at Geelong.
“It’s a good headline that you’ll go with this afternoon, I’m sure,” he said.
Many issues are bedevilling the Cats – Mitch Duncan has been injured, plus recruits Tanner Bruhn, Jack Bowes and Ollie Henry are taking time to adapt to their new team.
Tom Hawkins is also struggling after returning from off-season foot injury, but Dangerfield said he has not come back too quickly and added the key forward remains a giant headache for opposition defenders.
“We haven’t helped Hawk with the way we’ve moved the footy – that part is really, really clear,” he said. “We haven’t helped him at all. I have huge confidence in the big fella.”
While Dangerfield is upbeat about their prospects, he acknowledged they need to rally soon.
“I’m really optimistic with what we can do, because it isn’t far away. We just need to make sure we get it rolling sooner rather than later,” he said.
He was asked if their poor start meant more pressure ahead of Monday’s game.
“More pressure? Perhaps, but pressure makes diamonds,” he said.
The day after Ken Hinkley’s future was called untenable, Port Adelaide star Ollie Wines says the players and not the coach deserve the brunt of criticism for their AFL form.
Showdown losses sting hard in Adelaide and media commentator Warren Tredrea, Port’s only AFL premiership captain, was scathing on Monday after Saturday night’s pulsating clash against the Crows left the Power with a 1-2 record.
Hinkley comes out of contract at the end of this season, his 11th, and Tredrea said the coach’s future “just looks untenable”.
But Wines talked up Hinkley on Tuesday, saying he is rallying the players for another tough assignment on Saturday night when they play Sydney at the SCG.
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“I don’t think it’s a coaching issue at the moment – it’s execution by the players,” the Brownlow Medallist said. “It’s probably more so on us, than Ken and sitting here at 1-2, it’s not the end of the world.
“I do not think we’re (by) any means panicking. It’s not the end of the world. We have full faith in Ken. As players we know we need to execute and play better.”
Wines added that he and his teammates have sympathy for Hinkley.
“From a player’s perspective, I certainly think it’s unfair and it probably comes down to he’s the single individual you can probably pick out,” he said.
“We feel for him, but we understand we’re a big part – a major part – of our inconsistency at the moment. As players, we have to get doing the right thing.
“We feel for Ken and we feel for the pressure he’s under.”
Wines said after a titanic duel, Port “dropped the bundle” late and the big lesson from the game was they must execute better.
He added the Power must adjust to how other teams are playing against them.
“Those games are so hotly contested, both teams are going at it so hard – at one point, one team will break and unfortunately we were the one to do that,” he said.
“Teams are playing us probably how we (don’t) want to be played – they’re really working us out. We have to find ways through that.
“They know we like playing front-half footy and locking the ball inside 50 … they’re trying to possess the ball a little bit on us and work down, take time and possession off us.
“It’s working for them at the moment.”
If Wines and his teammates had any doubt about how hard Port Adelaide had taken this Showdown loss, a series of football clinics on Monday meant they had to weather plenty of questions from their younger fans.
“I understand – they are big games and there’s a lot of weight in those games. We’re as disappointed as everyone,” Wines said.
“That (the clinics) is probably where the reality really hits you.”
Wines said there is not time to dwell on Saturday night as they prepare to face the Swans.
“You have to use the disappointment of the weekend, move on really quickly and get the energy (in) the group again,” he said.
Wines is still returning to top form after knee surgery and said he always knew it would take four or five weeks of the season.
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says he needed just one glance at a photo of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan’s powerful stance against racism to know it had been an “iconic night” for his rising star forward.
Ugle-Hagan kicked the opening goal of the Bulldogs’ win against the Brisbane Lions before turning to the crowd, lifting his jumper and pointing to his skin in a recreation of Indigenous champion Nicky Winmar’s famous pose from 30 years earlier.
Beveridge on Monday doubled down on his gushing praise of the 20-year-old, who bounced back from the racial abuse he received during the Bulldogs’ loss to St Kilda the previous week with an exhilarating five-goal haul against the Lions.
“Right then, when you look at the photo, you realise it’s been … an iconic night for Marra (Ugle-Hagan) and the mob,” Beveridge told Fox Footy.
“He’s absolutely shown the way from a performance perspective, and then been willing to make a real statement … like Nicky did 30 years ago.
“To say, ‘Hey, it’s not good enough … I’m a young First Nations man and I’m not going to put up with it’. I love that.
“I loved it when he went over and embraced his mates in the crowd at the end, which is probably the opposite feeling of what he had the week before.”
Beveridge was just as impressed with how Ugle-Hagan handled himself off the field, fronting up to a press conference with his coach and speaking “from the heart” about what he’d had to deal with.
“You could step back and just listen to him and hope some of his words and his statements and his expressions would have an impact on people,” Beveridge said.
“I was asked whether I was proud of him. Everyone was proud of him and everyone has a right to be proud of him during those moments.
“(He’s) a beautiful young man who’s put up with a lot … that drains your energy, so to be so clutch he only had five kicks, and kick five goals, was amazing.
“It’s kind of like the Dreamtime really shone down on him.”
GWS first-round draft pick Darcy Jones is set to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a torn ACL.
The 19-year-old West Australian, taken with pick 21 of the most recent AFL national draft, incurred the knee injury while playing in the VFL on Saturday.
The Giants confirmed the prognosis on Tuesday morning and Jones will meet with a surgeon this week.
“Unfortunately it’s just one of those things that happens in football and we’ll wrap our arms around Darcy and give him all the support he needs at this tough time,” said Giants football GM Jason McCartney.
“He’s made a great impression on our group already in the short time he’s been at the club. He’s a wonderful person and he’ll be a great player for our football club.”
Small forward Jones has yet to make his senior debut and was one of three players drafted by the Giants in the first round last year, alongside academy selection Harry Rowston and top pick Aaron Cadman.
West Coast are facing a long stint without Jamie Cripps and Jeremy McGovern as they continue to feel the injury impact of their brutal western derby defeat to Fremantle.
Cripps will head for surgery on his broken left ankle and is looking at four months of recovery, while coach Adam Simpson said McGovern’s absence with an injured left hamstring would also be “reasonably long-term”. The Eagles could be forced to make up to seven changes for Sunday’s AFL clash with Melbourne at Optus Stadium.
Along with Cripps and McGovern, West Coast suffered injuries to Luke Shuey (hamstring), Liam Ryan (leg), Campbell Chesser (knee), Oscar Allen and Alex Witherden (concussion) during their 41-point loss to Fremantle at the weekend.
Simpson could not hide his dismay at the latest injury news. “(Cripps) will be out for most if not all of the year, which is really unfortunate,” he told Fox Footy on Monday night.
“He had a cracking pre-season and is a very important player for us. McGovern, there’s some scans waiting but that looks like it’s going to be a reasonably long-term situation.”
In better news for the Eagles, the 32-year-old Shuey – who has a history of soft-tissue problems – is not expected to be sidelined for too long with his hamstring injury.
“(Shuey) has worked so hard on being the best version he can be with his preparation and how diligent he’s been with his body,” Simpson said.
“It is a minor one … and that’s the killer for us, because everything he does with his hamstrings are one or two-week injuries that are barely soft tissue.
“He’s hoping it’s a short turnaround and we just kept backing him in and keep trying.”
Elliot Yeo would be the ideal replacement for Shuey if he can show he has overcome the calf injury he suffered on the eve of the season.
Defender Harry Edwards looms as the likely replacement for McGovern, while forward Jack Petruccelle booted four goals in a WAFL practice game last week and is set to replace Cripps.
Defender Josh Rotham, who made his WAFL return last week after recovering from a broken arm, is another in the selection mix, along with Greg Clark, Jai Culley, Connor West, Brady Hough, Rhett Bazzo and Xavier O’Neill.
Ruckman Nic Naitanui (achilles) is unlikely to be available until close to the middle of the season.