Outrage In Adelaide, But Judge Got Footy's Toughest Call Right
Damned if he did, damned if he didn't.
It was quite the dilemma facing retired Supreme Court judge the Hon. Michael David QC, as he sought to rule on a deadlock dividing the entire city of Adelaide and the wider football world.
The question was this: Should the North Adelaide Roosters be allowed through to the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) grand final after having an extra man on the field for almost four minutes in their preliminary final win over the Woodville-West Torrens Eagles?
Or should they be sent to football hell and kicked out of the competition for what was arguably a match-changing rule breach. The Roosters did, after all, score eight points in the three-minutes-and-39-seconds they had 19 players on the field. And they won the game by just five.
A city was divided as the hearing dragged on...
Finally, at a time when most people in Adelaide would normally have been asleep, the ruling came down in favour of North Adelaide. The win would stand.
The club would be fined $10,000 and docked four premiership points for the 2019 season (the equivalent of two games, unlike in the AFL where four points equals one game). But otherwise, bring on the grand final at the Adelaide Oval Sunday.
Nick Butler played in the SANFL back in the day and is now the Sport Presenter for TEN Eyewitness News First At FiveAdelaide. He sees both sides of the story, and is well aware that the AFL (which has a different constitution to the SANFL) would almost certainly have overturned the result.
But he reckons the QC got this one right.
"I'm going to butt heads with half the state on this. [Adelaide football legend and media personality] Graham Cornes said the Eagles were ripped off, but I think it would have been more unfair to rob North Adelaide," Butler told ten daily.
"I know Gerard Whateley on Fox absolutely sees it the other way too, and he thinks the only fair thing was to switch the result, but I’m with the QC in that it would have been more unfair to take the result off North Adelaide than the other way around."
This was no ordinary football match for all sorts of reasons. The Woodville-West Torrens Eagles kicked out to a huge lead. They were 47 points in front early in the third quarter.
That they were run down by a North Adelaide team with any number of players is remarkable, and this fact figures prominently in Nick Butler's assessment of the situation.
"As much as the Eagles will feel ripped off today, I’d be more worried that they gave up such a big lead rather than what happened in four minutes. When the dust has settled, they should be more concerned about how they let such a big lead slip."
But will the dust ever settle on this? For years to come, South Australians are going to argue over this the way they argue over whether to say "dance" or "daahnce".
More immediately, the focus is now on whether a Rooosters premiership would be tainted, should they happen to beat minor premiers Norwood in the big dance/big daahnce.
Again, Butler says no.
"People will say it's a tainted premiership but I say there should be no asterisk at all. North Adelaide came from fifth spot on the ladder if they're good enough to beat Norwood, there should be no question that they are a legitimate premiership side."
Meanwhile, one punter out there on Twitter asked a bloody good question about the SANFL. We've always wondered this too.
Main pic: AAP