OPINION

AFL umps hit new low in classic final

The lopsided free kick tally in Saturday night's first-semi final was somewhat of a shame. Photo: Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images
The lopsided free kick tally in Saturday night's first-semi final was somewhat of a shame. Photo: Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images

The remaining three finals have a tough act to follow - Saturday's first semi-final was a classic and the best game this season.

While the skill and courage of players on both teams was exemplary, the same could not be said about the umpires, who plumbed new depths.

Matt Stevic had a big week as the central figure in the AFL Tribunal hearing resulting in the suspension of Giants star Toby Greene. But he was not the worst - that mantle would be shared by fellow field umpires Robert Findlay and Nathan Williamson.

The Bulldogs won the lopsided free-kick count 28-19, although to be fair both sides suffered from countless poor adjudications and non-decisions which provoked the ire of a raucous Gabba crowd.

Surely Findlay and Williamson should not be rewarded with either of this weekend's preliminary finals.

As the ladder indicated there was nothing between the Bulldogs and Lions, so the way the game panned out was not surprising.

Brisbane was gallant in defeat. The Lions went into the game without key forwards Eric Hipwood and Daniel McStay, then were a player down in the second half after losing Jarrod Berry and Jack Payne with concussion.

The Bulldogs also lost livewire small forward Cody Weightman, who is likely to be missing this Saturday night.

Hopefully Marcus Bontempelli's knee will be OK, because the Dogs need their skipper to stand up in the midfield against the Power midfield led by Ollie Wines and Travis Boak.

The Bulldogs defeated Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval in round nine and were unlucky to be pipped by the Power in round 23.

I'm tipping the Power to advance to the grand final, but write off the brave Bulldogs at your peril.

DEES' CHANCE FOR REDEMPTION

Melbourne's last appearance in a preliminary final was embarrassing and this Friday's showdown against Geelong at the same venue in Perth represents a huge chance for redemption.

But if there are any lingering mental demons, the battle-hardened Cats will be ready to pounce.

Three years ago, Melbourne learned a harsh lesson at the hands of eventual premier West Coast, the rampant Eagles holding the stunned Demons goalless in the first half.

This time Melbourne is much better placed, having enjoyed the week's break and with a stronger, more experienced team.

Skipper Max Gawn's tremendous goal after the final siren at Geelong, which secured Melbourne's first minor premiership in 57 years, has put the Demons in the box seat.

The round 23 win was Melbourne's second victory over Geelong this season.

Significantly, the speedy Demons exposed the Cats as they comfortably accounted for them in round four at the MCG.

Optus Stadium's dimensions are similar to the MCG, although it is important to note that Geelong has won both of its games in Perth this season.

Esava Ratugolea did not play against Melbourne in round 23 and while his statistics were hardly compelling in the win against the Giants last Friday, the big Cat looms as pivotal to his team's chances of advancing to another grand final.

Ratugolea provides another forward target to take the heat off Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron and will be required to give Rhys Stanley ruck support against Gawn and Rising Star winner Luke Jackson.

The Cats will need to find a replacement for the injured Brandan Parfitt, with either Luke Dahlhaus or Quinton Narkle likely to gain the nod.

Melbourne faces a selection quandary, with Jayden Hunt available to return from ankle surgery.

The hard-running defender had played every game this season before he was injured against West Coast in round 21.

Naomi Osaka is taking a break from tennis. Photo: TPN/Getty Images

Naomi Osaka is taking a break from tennis. Photo: TPN/Getty Images

TENNIS NEEDS FIT, FIRING OSAKA

Let's hope Japanese ace Naomi Osaka returns to professional tennis better and stronger than ever.

After her shock loss to Canadian teenager Leylah Fernandez in the third round of the US Open, Osaka, 23, announced she would take an indefinite break from the game.

Elite sportspeople are always under huge pressure to perform, particularly someone with Osaka's sublime talent.

Women's tennis needs the two-time US and Australian Open champion to be at the top of her game.

The surprises did not end there at Flushing Meadows, with top seed Ash Barty also succumbing in the third round to American Shelby Rogers.

Barty is likely to return home to Queensland soon before focusing on next year's Australian Open.

AUSSIES NO CHEATS, SAYS CHAPPELLI

It's almost 50 years since Bob Massie mesmerised England's batsmen with a magnificent exhibition of swing bowling at Lord's, but Ian Chappell and his teammates have not forgotten or forgiven the late Ted Dexter for a nasty slur against the Australians.

Dexter, the former England captain who died last month aged 86, labelled the Australians "cheating bastards" in his newspaper column at the time and reignited the controversy in his final book 85 Not Out published last year.

Dexter claimed the Australians, led by Chappell, had gone outside the rules by squishing clear lip balm into their trousers and using it to shine the ball, assisting Massie with his movement through the air.

But the former Australian skipper vehemently denies Dexter's allegation to this day, declaring his team did nothing wrong as Massie entered the record books with his 16-wicket haul on his Test debut.

Has Howard got it right? Email: howardkotton11@gmail.com; Twitter: @hpkotton59.

This story AFL umps hit new low in classic final | Howard Kotton first appeared on The Canberra Times.