An all out brawl, a three-match suspension and a referee stuck in an unenviable situation has led AFL Riverina to declare that the outcome of the contentious Narrandera vs Turvey Park match still stands. After a week’s deliberation, AFL Riverina has accepted that because the red card procedure broke down, Turvey Park’s score will remain.
“There was confusion as to which player was sent off the field. There was a confrontation between two players, that’s where the process has fallen down. The umpire’s had to deal with the massive melee,” said AFL Riverina Football Operations Manager Shane Buchanan.
“When two players are pushing and shoving, and then all of a sudden there’s a massive melee, his focus is on the opposite player, not the referee.”
The point of conflict came from a fight that broke out between a Turvey Park player and a Narrandera player. The referee gave the Turvey Park player a red card, which was either ignored or unnoticed, after which an on-field brawl broke out. In the confusion, the player was not sent off; the red card wasn’t recorded by the timekeepers and the player to be sent off wasn’t officially identified.
A count was called for by Narrandera and while it was found that Turvey Park hadn’t sent the player off, it was also found to be “insignificant” as the red card procedure had already broken down.
According to a statement from AFL Riverina, a headcount can result in “penalties to either team, which is inclusive of a team’s score being removed from the scoreboard up until the time of the count, 50 metre penalties and also free kicks.”
According to Buchanan, the referee did attempt to continue the red card procedure after the melee had dispersed.
“After the event, because of the confusion, he’s [the referee] tried to find that player on the field and hasn’t. And that’s where the red card procedure has broken down. Two players were reported, a Narrandera player and a Turvey Park player. The Turvey Park player, he’s been to the tribunal, that happened last Thursday night, and he’s received a suspension of three competition matches. The Narrandera player took an early guilty plea and was suspended for one competition match. Both players were reprimanded for instigating a melee, which goes on their record.”
Buchanan said the referee did the right thing in extraordinarily difficult circumstances.
“To put it in context, the umpire is trying to stop two players who were confronting each other. It’s easy to lose concentration with what’s going on. These things are easy to criticise after they’ve passed, but the referee had all of this happening very quickly. They had to think of safe game management when you’ve got all the players on the ground involved in a melee. Put yourself in their shoes,” he said.