COMMENT: Tribunal missed the mark on abuse ban
OPINION: Gympie Cats captain Lanze Magin will miss tomorrow's AFL Wide Bay grand final as part of a meek, four-game suspension after he threatened an umpire.
Magin was cited because he threatened an umpire after Gympie's qualifying final win against Hervey Bay Bombers in Bundaberg on August 18.
He faced a tribunal in Brisbane mid-week, where he was handed a four-match ban for the threat, ruling him out of this week's grand final.
It's far too lenient.
This was an opportunity for the tribunal to prove umpire abuse will not be tolerated. Instead, he misses four games in what is a slap on the wrist. He received only one extra week than he did for head-butting a Bombers player during the June 23 game at Gympie.
Privately, various club and competition officials are outraged at what they consider a lenient ban. Some believed this was an opportunity to send a statement about how these actions will not be tolerated, and the punishment doesn't support match officials.
AFL Wide Bay officials did not offer public comment due to the risk of bringing the code into disrepute, and did not want to interfere with the tribunal and its processes.
AFL Queensland boss Dean Warren said that while behaviour towards and respect for umpires had improved in recent years, there was no place for it the abuse that often leads to umpires leaving the game.
Is a four-week ban for threatening an umpire enough?
This poll ended on 05 September 2018.
Yes - it's on the money
No - it's not long enough
No - it's far too long
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.
"Our position on umpire abuse and threaten behaviour by players and spectators is really clear - there is no place for it in our game and it will not be tolerated," he wrote.
"Umpires are a critical part of our football community, they love the game and play a vital role. We've seen a positive reduction in umpire abuse in recent years and the respect from clubs in the past year or two has been great.
"However, at present the growth in umpiring is not keeping pace with the growth of the game that we are experiencing at community level. Umpire recruitment and retention is still a major challenge for the game with umpires walking away due to abuse. Everyone involved in the game has a role to play in creating a quality match day environment and experience, which will have a positive impact on both player and umpire retention."
Behaving in an abusive, insulting, threatening or obscene manner towards or in relation to an umpire is regarded as a low-level reportable offence according to the state and territory guidelines.
His moment of madness has cost the Cats the presence of one of the competition's best players. Magin led the Stedman Medal count at the halfway point and was on track to win before he was deemed ineligible due to a three-week suspension. He finished fourth, just five votes behind winners teammate Scott Stiefler and Bay Power's Marcus Dyson.
Magin missed three weeks due to a head-butt in the June 23 game against the Bombers at Gympie. In his first game back from suspension on July 28, he was sent from the field for an off-the-ball hit on Bay Power's Brock Harch.
Gympie officials were reportedly shocked by Magin's conduct and club representatives met at length with AFL Wide Bay president Anthony Stothard during the preliminary final in Bundaberg.
Magin's behaviour is not reflective of the Cats, who play a hard, physical brand of footy that has sent them on a seven-game winning streak before tomorrow's grand final and produced more points than any other team this year.
They are a team that plays to win, and will enter the decider riding a rightly-deserved wave of confidence.
But the tribunal has let down the state's umpires with its shockingly short suspension.
Organised sport is already struggling, and it's much tougher to find people who want to officiate than play.
When you add the abuse match officials in any code receive, it is easy to understand why youngsters would prefer to play than blow the whistle.
AFL Wide Bay is in a unique position when it comes to its umpires. If you go to the grand final, look around and predict the ages of the men and women serving as field, goal and sideline umpires.
Alongside the adults are a large number of teenagers who umpire because they love the sport, and it won't take much of that behaviour to turn them away forever.