One too many dogs

Barossa District players were devastated by the most sensational result in the League’s history when their score was wiped from the board in Saturday’s first semi-final against Willaston.

More than 2,000 people were there to witness the tied scores of 59 change to a 59 point lead for Willaston after Barossa District was found to have an extra player on the ground.

The scores were 9-5 (59) to Barossa District and 8-11 (59) to Willaston before the ball was thrown up in the final quarter.

Willaston captain, Shaun Baker called for the count and Barossa’s coach, Roger James noticed the problem and was trying to make his way back to the bench.

The margin was then too great for Barossa to claw back and the final scores were Willaston 11-15 (81) to Barossa District 0-6 (6).

The count took place by umpires Kristian Whitaker and Ian Dew in amazing scenes.

Kristian was also involved in a count during the S.A. Country Championships at Port Pirie in July.

John Wills, Football Operations Manager of Barossa District Football and Netball Club said:

“The club is still exploring a clarification of the Commencement of Play Rule 11.2.2 (b). Given the advice we have received we are quietly confident that the rule should be applied exactly as read but until we receive an official response on the matter from David Bradley of the Community Football League we cannot be certain. We are hoping to receive a response shortly so that it can be included in a presentation the Club will be making to Board of Directors at its Meeting on Thursday, which will contain some questions we wish answered as well as some recommendations for the Board to consider.”

A statement from Barossa District Football and Netball Club President, Simon Taylor, in relation to the First Football Semi Final played at Nuriootpa on Saturday said:

“Up until three quarter time in the A-Grade, Saturday was a showcase day of finals football for the B., L. & G. showing the quality of entertaining football our league can produce. The weather was fantastic and Nuriootpa had done a terrific job organising the day.

“The Reserves game was close all day with Nuriootpa winning the game with a straight kick 30 secs before the final siren. Jeff Woods had done a great job with the lads getting them to the finals in his first year as Coach. A passionate lad, he was devastated at the end of the game. Having tasted finals footy the lads are already planning for a bigger year next year.

“The A-Grade game was a ripper with both teams working extremely hard. The entertainment value of the game was reflected by the level score when the 3/4 time siren sounded. The start of the final quarter of the A-Grade was a bit of a blur. Prior to the game restarting, our playing coach Roger James, realised we had 19 players on the ground. He then went to quickly egress the ground to reduce the numbers to 18. The Willaston Captain also observed this and quickly requested a count of players. Having blown his whistle, the adjudicating field umpire deemed that the match had started and progressed the count of players in accordance with the guidance in Law 5.5 of the Laws of Australian Football 2011. Roger was a few metres over the boundary by this time and consequently returned to line up in the centre square for the count. It was determined that we had 19 players on the ground and the penalties of Law 5.5.3. were applied, which included a loss of all score. After the game restart our lads then did a fantastic job to play the game out and to still provide entertaining football to the crowd. We are all proud of them.

“As you can imagine the changeroom was “sombre” as we listened to the Willaston song. A hell of a way to end the season, with the game leaving a feeling that no real result was achieved, similar to the feeling after a draw.

“At the moment, to us, the penalty appears to be too severe and such a technical ruling may not be in the spirit of what community football is about, noting there was no intent to gain any advantage. As a Club we have taken the result on the chin, recognising that we play a game covered by rules, umpired by enthusiastic people who do their best to interpret and apply these rules.  In slow time we will pursue the review of Law 5.5 via the B., L. & G. with the view of applying a more appropriate penalty.

“We are now focussing on next year certain that with a couple of players returning to the club, a talented bunch of juniors coming up and some deft recruiting we will be back for finals again in both grades.”

Willaston president, Mr Ray Cockshell told “The Leader” that he had never seen a count before either.

“It was un-nerving to see the actual scores being taken off the scoreboard. It was almost like watching someone turn off a life support machine.

“As to what happened I can only give you second hand information relayed to me by our people on the spot.

“The trigger seems to have been seeing a loose man at the start of the last quarter and trying to find which of our players should have been on him.

“When everyone was accounted for, the realisation dawned that Barossa had an extra man on the field.

“I have no idea where the original shout of “Count” originated, but it was like someone yelling “Fire” – rapid escalation and immediate action.

“I believe it was the result of a simple mix-up in their player rotation system? The rest is now history.

“A few thoughts:

“There is a sense of sportsmanship denied in winning a match this way.

“I strongly felt Willaston were well on track to win in any case. They clawed back from a four goal deficit when the heat was really applied to level the match at the final break. The mood was similar to those on other days when they have really come to play.

“I note confusion for younger players, and many spectators, over this rule. It’s rarely invoked or executed, so it is not really well known. Many I spoke to thought the recently introduced Interchange penalties were all there was for this circumstance.

“I was reminded of a comment I made to our club members the week before when we had to beat Nuriootpa comfortably to make the finals.

“At three quarter time Willaston were about 15 goals up and they were asking/telling me how good it will be in the finals.

“My response was along these lines: ‘I will not deem the game won until the final siren has sounded. Anything could happen, including us losing all our score due to us having too many players on the ground’.

“One week later that exact, highly unlikely situation actually occurred, in reverse. I still get shivers thinking about that ‘prophecy’.

“I truly feel for Barossa – this is a horrible way to exit the finals race, particularly as their Reserves side had just lost by one point on the last kick of that match.

“The reality, however, is that it is done. We now have to take the ‘win’ and must make it fully meaningful by achieving the ultimate victory.”

Mr Robin (Nobby) Symes made the following comment: “As a President of the B., L. &. G., being present at the First Semi Final at Nuriootpa and fully aware of the situation as it transpired on the day, I fully endorse the actions of the Umpires Kristian Whitaker and Ian Dew, the “Sit Umpire” and Carl Whitaker.

“The actions taken, are as per the rules of the game, and I commend all of the game officials in their application of those rules.

“While we would all prefer not to have seen this happen in this manner, they are the facts and the incidence did occur. The issue was handled correctly, professionally and the results stand as testament to the professionalism of all involved, including the knowledge of the ‘Laws of the Game’.

“I, as a President, applaud the way that it was handled. While it is a critical application of the Rules, we all need to be very careful that we do not allow certain elements to “Sensationalise” the outcome to the detriment of the game, the Association and those involved on the day.

“We all feel for the ‘Barossa District Football and Netball Club’ and were all geared for a fantastic, tight, final quarter of football, befitting a semi final, this was not to be. I also applaud both clubs in the manner in which they approached and played that last quarter.

“We have asked for and received a report from the BLGFA Umpires’ Coach on the incident and we will discuss the report and the rule at a meeting of the Board of Directors this Thursday night.”

A quick search through records reveal that this has happened at least four times before in the B., L. & G. and former B. & L. and Gawler & District League, but not in finals.

If anyone knows of any other ‘counts’ “The Leader” would be pleased to know.

In the former B. & L. Association, Angaston and Tanunda Under 17’s had a count at Angaston Oval probably in the early to mid 1980’s. Former Angaston secretary at the time, Brian Hurn recalled the event going something like this: Tanunda bought someone on in the last quarter on purpose to give them a kick as Tanunda could not win the game anyway. The umpire, Tony Hurn was alerted to this and called for a count with all the players sitting down on the ground and Tanunda were found to have 19.

Nuriootpa A-Grade called for a count against Freeling in 1994 but coach, Sean Disbury, Freeling took himself off in a forward pocket so the umpires (Ivan Moll and Steve Oates) couldn’t prove at the time whether he had been on or off the field. Nuriootpa still won 20-7 (127) to 16-15 (111) at Nuriootpa.

In 1998, Tanunda and Willaston had the same scenario in the Reserves game at Tanunda. However, Tanunda’s score of 1-5 (11) at the time of the incident was wiped four days later, but they still got up to win, 5-10 (40) to 1-3 (9) and strangely enough it was also against Willaston, just like Saturday’s game. Umpire Steve Ruediger lodged a report that Tanunda had 19 players in an official count on the field in the Reserves match against Willaston at  Tanunda on May 9, 1998 at Tanunda. Nothing happened to the score during the game. The Directors met on the following Wednesday and Tanunda’s coach, Steve Lubcke pleaded guilty. Just prior to half time Lubke requested a player to sit on the bench for 10 minutes. After the break the player went onto the field without approval believing time had been completed. Play had resumed for two or three minutes before it was realised that there were 19 on the field and steps were immediately taken to take one man off. Scores were not affected as play had been on the opposite end of the ground during this time. Scores were Tanunda 1-5 to Willaston 1-3 at the time of the count with no score during the period with 19 men on the field. Directors determined that the incident was not deliberate and of minor nature. The score of 1-5 (11) was then deducted from the premiership table of Tanunda Reserves.

In 1968 in an A-Grade game between South Gawler and Lyndoch (now Barossa District) in the former Gawler & District League, there was approximately 10 minutes to go in the third quarter and Peter Clark, who had injured his knee, was being carried from the ground by trainers, Max Heinrich and Kevin Jones. They were about 30 yards from the boundary when steward, Popeye Adams sent a reserve onto the ground to replace him. The scores were South 6-10 to Lyndoch 6-5, when a supporter for Lyndoch suddenly ran onto the ground and convinced their coach, Graham Thomas to call for a head count. Because South Gawler had 19 men on the ground their score was scrubbed. Subsequently South lost the match with a score of 2-6 while Lyndoch never added to their 6-5. This incident was used successfully as a “coach’s weapon” against Lyndoch for several years after that. In fact the next time South played them it was late into the second quarter before they even scored. Many Lyndoch players, supporters and the coach later regretted the action.

One of the most famous calling for a count incidents was in the SANFL in 1975 when West Torrens played West Adelaide at Thebarton Oval in Fred Bills’ last game for the Eagles. John Cassin, West Torrens was on a stretcher and West Torrens’ coach, Noel Teasdale sent Fred on to replace Cassin in what was Fred’s 313th and final League game and West Adelaide captain, Bob Loveday called for the count. West Torrens player, Norm Dare, allegedly jumped the fence and put on an overcoat and hid in the crowd. The count never eventuated and West Torrens still won.

Saturday’s incident was the first of its kind in 441 (counting Saturday) finals matches since the B., L. & G. was formed in 1987 and it brought many classic comments from the crowd on the mound bar hill during the last quarter and at the end of the game. When the Barossa District players walked past the grandstand to the changerooms some of the crowd were seen to lean over the rail pointing to the players and saying, “One, two, three, four………” which brought a little humour to what was something that most hope they never witness again, especially during a final. Just imagine if it was a Grand Final!