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The top 10 AFL umpiring howlers of all time - What are the AFL's worst umpiring decisions ever?

Adam Cusworth in News 1 May 2017
  • 2009 and 2016 Grand Final's make the list
  • Adelaide have been part of plenty of controversy over the years
  • Geelong fans still cry foul about Colbert's 'mark' in 1997

There were plenty of controversial decisions across the recent round of AFL action but how do they measure up against some of the all time howlers?

We have taken a look through some of the worst umpiring decisions of all time in the AFL era (1991 onwards) and come up with our top 10 shockers. 

10. #freekickhawthorn

Early on in 2016, Hawthorn were on the receiving end of a couple of gifts from the umpires, including two in a matter of seconds against St Kilda in Round 4 at Aurora Stadium. Both featured short kicks that umpires deemed not to have travelled the full 15m. Replays indicated otherwise but that only added to the frustration for Saints fans after Jordan Lewis snapped truly to sink the Saints. A week later the Hawks were at it again with Paul Puopolo being awarded a free that wasn't there in the three point win over Adelaide and legend of #freekickhawthorn was born. 

9. Grand Final howler

Some will argue that the umpire's real pets in 2016 were the Western Bulldogs and one player that might not disagree is Sydney's Daniel Hannebery. The Dogs had the best free kick differential of any side in 2016 and a number of line ball decisions went their way in the decider, including this shocker, which resulted in knee damage to Swans ball magnet, Daniel Hannebery. It came at a pivotal time in the last quarter and effectively ended Hannebery's day. 


8. What a mark by Carey!

No, it wasn't Wayne Carey, it was the umpire, Peter Carey. Not sure what the man in white was thinking in this 1999 clash between Freo and St Kilda but his uncontested mark certainly was one of the strangest moments in football. 


7. Nightmare at the G

Dreamtime at the G was a nightmare for Richmond fans in 2007 after their side conceded two late goals to lose the game. The loss was even harder to swallow after hero player Matthew Richardson marked late in the game and played on to kick a goal, which was disallowed as he was deemed to have pushed his opponent in the back. The free resulted in another goal for the Bombers, who would eventually win by eight points. 

6. Great mark Colbert. Play on?

Geelong's Leigh Colbert took a courageous grab at an important stage of the 1997 Semi Final against Adelaide. Everyone at the ground, including the commentators thought he had marked it, except for the umpires. The Cats were eventually rolled in a tight one. Had Colbert been awarded the mark and converted, the end result may have been different. 


5. John Anthony (or was it the umpire) wins the game for Collingwood 

It hasn't all been one way traffic for Adelaide in finals and the Crows missed out in 2009 at the MCG, when Collingwood forward Jack Anthony was awarded a dodgy one late in the game. The resultant shot sailed through and the Pies prevailed in a thriller. 


4. Don't buy real estate off this umpire

Collingwood won the opening game of 2007 by a point against North Melbourne and can count themselves lucky. Shannon Grant was awarded a 50m penalty and would have had his shot from the line, had the umpire correctly marked out the 50m. Due to the mistake, Grant had to take his kick from 10m out and produced one of the worst efforts of all time to miss the goal and cost his side the game


3. Grand Final Howler #2

In the 2009 Grand Final, Geelong's Tom Hawkins was awarded a goal, despite the goal clearly brushing the post. The decision proved costly and may have cost the Saints the premiership in the narrow loss. The blooper led to the AFL introducing the goal review system a year later. 


2. This is murder! Absolute murder!

Poor old Fitzroy. This one caused alot of controversy at the time after the Lions led all night in atrocious conditions in Adelaide in the winter of 1991 before the home side were on the receiving end of two dodgy frees late in the game. Rod Jameson was given the ball, despite not being the one awarded the free, and booted truly after the siren. 



1. Sirengate

in the 2007 game between St Kilda and Freo at Launceston. While this one can't be pinned on the umpires due to the dodgy siren, most players were aware that it had bee blown and Freo should have won. Umpires allowed the play to continue and the Saints scrambled a point. Chaos reigned supreme with players, umpires and coaches all arguing about what had happened and the game was eventually decided days later with the Dockers being declared the winner. 


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The top 10 AFL umpiring howlers of all time - What are the AFL's worst umpiring decisions ever?

There have been some shocking umpiring decisions over the journey. We pick out our top 10 since the VFL became the AFL in 1991.

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