Conor McKenna brushes a Magpie tackle. Pic: Getty Images
Conor McKenna brushes a Magpie tackle. Pic: Getty Images

‘It’s alarming’: Bombers needs answers from umps

AFL umpires head coach Hayden Kennedy has agreed to meet with Essendon coach John Worsfold and his assistant coaching staff ahead of Saturday night's clash with Gold Coast at Metricon Stadium, as the Bombers chase clarity over their "alarming" lopsided free kick count.

The Bombers have been minus 35 in free kicks across the past three matches against Collingwood, North Melbourne and West Coast - earning 45 compared to their opponents' 80 - with Worsfold admitting the differential had prompted the call to meet with Kennedy.

He stressed the chief concern centred on the prior opportunity rulings, saying the club wanted to find out if it had been directing the players in the wrong manner or whether it simply hadn't been paid what they had been due.

"I want general clarity," Worsfold said ahead of his meeting with Kennedy at the club's Tullamarine base in the coming days.

"We are down 35 free kicks in three weeks, which is now quite alarming."

The Bombers were behind in the free kick count against Collingwood. Pic: Getty Images
The Bombers were behind in the free kick count against Collingwood. Pic: Getty Images

"We've locked in a time (to meet Kennedy). He will have a better analysis of what has been going wrong for us, why we are giving away so many free kicks, or potentially not getting many, and I think it is a bit of both for us at the moment.

"I will get the other coaches involved in their areas, regarding queries they may have, whether it is marking contests or stuff around the ball."

Acknowledging that not even the 18 AFL coaches can frame a consistent view on a range of prior opportunity examples, Worsfold said he wanted to check with Kennedy whether the club had been teaching its players the correct techniques.

"There are some teams that (are) in the positive (in protected area free kicks) ... some clubs are going to be real quiet and be happy," he said.

Worsfold said he didn't have too many issues with the protected area penalties which have pushed some clubs and coaches to the point of exasperation in recent weeks.

But he was firm in the belief that if the AFL wanted to make significant rule changes to enhance the look of the game - as the league is planning - it should only do so after a series of proper trials, preferably through the JLT Community Series.

John Worsfold: “... some clubs are going to be real quiet and be happy.” Pic: AAP
John Worsfold: “... some clubs are going to be real quiet and be happy.” Pic: AAP

"Unless it was something that was for safety (reasons), and it was obvious that it was going to save and protect players ... you could justify bringing that in straight away," Worsfold said.

"But if it was around the look of the game, I think it would be ideal to trial things in some form."

Late withdrawal Orazio Fantasia remains a chance to take on the Suns this week, but has to get through a few training sessions before the club has a clearer picture, but David Myers is expected to play.

Worsfold said injuries to Jake Stringer and Patrick Ambrose provided opportunity for others including Darcy Parish, Matt Dea and Aaron Francis

Worsfold said the club remained committed to giving Joe Daniher every chance to resume late in the season from his groin injury, for as long as it remains an option that he could return.

"(Daniher) has a program mapped out that will see him potentially playing footy later this year, providing he meets all the criteria along the way," he said.



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