Max King is tackled by Mac Andrew during the round 13 match between St Kilda and Gold Coast at Marvel Stadium, June 8, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

THE AFL has conceded a late free kick against Gold Coast defender Mac Andrew on Saturday night should not have been paid, but the League has ticked off two other controversial calls from the weekend's action.

With Gold Coast leading by three points at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night, Andrew was penalised for an off-the-ball hold on St Kilda spearhead Max King as the pair jostled close to goal.

Much to Andrew's dismay, King converted from point-blank range and St Kilda held on to win by three points, with Suns coach Damien Hardwick labelling the pivotal call "unwarranted".


Stephen McBurney, the AFL's Head of Officiating, conceded on Sunday that both players were grappling and the correct decision was to call play on.

"(The umpire) assessed that Andrew put both arms around Max King and paid holding the man. We think looking at the full context and with the benefit of all the angles we had, we think the better call in that situation was no call," McBurney said.

"We don't think there was enough to constitute holding and we think there was significant contact both ways as they were grappling and running for position.

"So we think the better call in that situation is no call, don't blow the whistle and let play unfold with a kick from the centre.

"We totally understand why he's paid it because he has seen arms around ... we just don't see, with the benefit of all the angles we get, that it was the right outcome for the amount of contact occurring between both players."


Despite the error, McBurney said the umpire in question will continue to officiate at AFL level, saying "he absolutely will not be dropped over a decision like this".

"We can see why the umpire has paid the free kick. It wouldn't be classified as a major error or a critical error under our assessment. It was a judgement call," he said.

"He gets one go at it, he has to make a call in the heat of the moment and we acknowledge that what he paid is what he saw."

In a controversial and tense day of action on Saturday, the two other games also involved contentious late free kick calls that helped Hawthorn and North Melbourne get over the line against Greater Western Sydney and West Coast respectively.

McBurney ticked off a holding the ball free kick that was awarded against West Coast's Elliot Yeo late in the Eagles' loss to the Kangaroos, which saw North co-captain Jy Simpkin kick a pivotal goal.


Yeo first jarred the ball free with his strong tackle on George Wardlaw but then found himself over the ball and did not knock it free before Simpkin tackled him.

"The rules require that if you dive on the ball or drag it back in that you must knock it clear immediately," McBurney said.

"He doesn't do that, the tackle is effective so we say holding the ball is the correct outcome."

McBurney again noted a free should have been paid against Sam Draper earlier this season for a similar incident late in Essendon's win over Adelaide, when the ruckman was on the ground over the ball and was tackled.

McBurney said the free kick against Greater Western Sydney midfielder Tom Green on Hawthorn's James Sicily late in their match in Launceston, which led to the match-winning goal for the Hawks, was also the correct call.


He said Green's hit was "late and forceful", adding "we've been fairly consistent on that all year".

Sicily's shot on goal went out on the full and the "free after disposal" was paid to Hawthorn in their forward pocket.

McBurney conceded there was an argument that Hawks forward Mabior Chol was closer to where the ball went out of play, and therefore should have taken the resultant free kick, but that the umpire had ruled that Luke Breust was the closest Hawthorn player.

Speaking at a media call on Sunday afternoon, McBurney said the umpires and clubs involved had been told about the umpiring department review verdicts earlier in the day.