The Melbourne Demons secured a nailbiting 8.4 (52) to 7.7 (49) victory over St Kilda in Alice Springs, but not without some late Score Review controversy.
Demons midfielder Christian Petracca booted four goals in a classy performance, but the 24-year-old’s final major proved a huge talking point.
After getting his hands on the Sherrin inside 50 in the fourth quarter, Petracca was grabbed by St Kilda defender Callum Wilkie.
As Wilkie attempted to drive Petracca into the turf, the Demons star awkwardly punted the footy towards the posts without any momentum.
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St Kilda defender Dougal Howard desperately dived to touch the ball before it crossed the line, and the decision was sent upstairs for a Score Review with the soft call being a goal.
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Unfortunately, no side-on camera angles were available for the one-off game at TIO Traeger Park, so there was no conclusive evidence to overturn the on-field decision.
“We can see the ball is clearly touched, but there is insufficient evidence to confirm if this touch is before crossing the back of the goal line,” the ARC umpire said.
Richmond legend Matthew Richardson responded to the incident on Channel 7’s coverage: “If you are going to have goal line cameras, you probably need them at every game.”
Despite the contentious circumstances, commentator James Brayshaw had nothing but praise for Petracca.
“That is unbelievable! He had three to beat. What about the individual performance from Christian Petracca,” Brayshaw proclaimed.
Western Bulldogs great agreed: “Take a look at the body strength of Petracca … he’s got no right to get boot to ball.
“That is just serious power.”
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Petracca’s final goal proved a pivotal moment in the round 15 encounter, with the Demons eventually winning the thrilling contest by just three points.
The Saints have been involved in five games decided by six or fewer points this season, losing four of them.
Speaking to reporters after the match, Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin panned the AFL for not having side-on cameras installed.
“If we can’t get the technology to a point where you can’t make accurate calls, it is better off not having it,” Goodwin argued.
“It was designed for the real obvious ones, but when you are trying to pick up touch ones from a fair way out or on the goal line, you need the technology at every venue.”
Goodwin also labelled Petracca an “incredible” player who continues to improve as an AFL footballer.
“He is a great player to have for our footy club. He is going to excite our supporters for many years to come,” Petracca said.
“As a coach, you get the privilege of being able to place him through the midfield or as a forward when you need him to influence the scoreboard. I thought tonight he had a really good balance in his game, defended strongly through the midfield and when he went forward, he had multiple opportunities to impact the scoreboard.”
Petracca’s controversial goal ignited plenty of debate on social media. Radio presenter Rohan Connolly tweeted: “That shot of Petracca’s may have been touched behind the line, but we’ll never know. And we should. No good investing money on ARC then not standardising the cameras used at EVERY venue there’s games. Reckon AFL owe us an explanation why that STILL isn’t the case.”
The Age sports journalist Daniel Cherny posted: “Umpire in perfect position. Clearly ARC technology not as good for game in Alice but back the man on the line.”
Sports writer Ashley Browne tweeted: “Great to take footy to grounds like these … but every AFL venue needs the same goal line camera set-up.”
Sam Weideman kicked two goals for Melbourne, while Clayton Oliver mustered a team-high 26 disposals.
After recording their seventh victory of the season, the Demons climb into the top eight on the AFL ladder, while St Kilda remain in sixth.
For their next fixture, Melbourne will take on the Sydney Swans in Cairns on Thursday, while St Kilda will enjoy a bye.