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

ROSS Lyon claims the AFL has "gone too far" with public explanations of contentious umpiring decisions after the league admitted Max King should not have been paid a free kick late in St Kilda's narrow win over Gold Coast.

King booted the Saints' match-winning goal in a dour contest last Saturday night when Suns defender Mac Andrew was penalised for holding his opponent in a wrestle for position off the ball.

League umpires boss Stephen McBurney came out within 24 hours and admitted the free kick should not have been given to King, while ticking off separate crucial decisions in victories by North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

The League has made a point of trying to be more "transparent" with fans and media around game-related issues this season.

But Lyon isn't impressed, raising his issue with the move during his regular mid-week press conference on Wednesday.

"I just don't understand how we emphasise one free kick and talk about that's influenced the match and that's the outcome," Saints coach Lyon told reporters.

"I don't like that the AFL comes out and clarifies it.

"I've been to big finals and moved on (from umpiring decisions), and I just think why is one free kick more important than another?"


Lyon said he often sees vision of King and other forwards being "mauled" behind the ball, and asks the AFL privately for clarity.

"They say, 'Yeah we missed that one, we missed that one, if there's one arm around the chest it's a free kick, it doesn't need to be two'," Lyon said.

"So I'm not in agreeance with the AFL coming out and trying to rationalise and settle things down.

"How about there's a decision made and we all accept it and move on? I just think it's gone too far."

McBurney, the League's head of officiating, on Sunday said King and Andrew were grappling at the crucial moment in St Kilda's three-point victory at Marvel Stadium and conceded the whistle should not have been blown.

"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," McBurney said.


The umpires' boss also said correct calls were made in Saturday's matches when West Coast's Elliot Yeo was penalised for holding the ball and Hawthorn captain James Sicily was bumped after his kick.

The decisions respectively led to crucial goals in North Melbourne's win over the Eagles and the Hawks' triumph over Greater Western Sydney.

Meanwhile, Lyon has defended his tactics in the face of mounting criticism while declaring his intention to continue using a tagger to blunt the AFL's sharpest ball-winners.

Lyon's game style has been under the blowtorch since the Saints' posted the lowest winning score for a team led by the 57-year-old since 2010 in their victory over Gold Coast.

The dour affair produced the fourth-lowest total score in the venue's 25-year history - a combined 99 points - with Suns coach Damien Hardwick conceding it was a "terrible" and "horrific" contest.


In the aftermath, prominent commentators have attacked what they perceive to be an overly-defensive style of play being fostered by Lyon.

"There's a lot of conjecture about it, a lot of split views," Lyon said.

"I'm really thrilled with our contested ball, plus-20 against a great contested-ball team, defence in strong order, lots of entries, left a lot on the table.

"We felt we took Gold Coast's game off them and we want to take Brisbane's game off them this week.

"I haven't got the luxury to keep looking backwards and I'm certainly not a 'Monday's expert'."


St Kilda has won its last two matches to improve its season record to 5-8, but is a long shot to reach the top eight in a disappointing return following last year's finals appearance.

"We haven't had a great year," Lyon said.

"We're trying to improve all our phases and we know in the end to really challenge and win you need to be in at least the top six for attack, so we've got plenty of work to do."

Lyon has used Marcus Windhager to good effect as a tagger over the past fortnight, restricting the damage caused by Gold Coast captain Touk Miller and West Coast sensation Harley Reid.

He is set to deploy Windhager in a similar role against Brisbane at the Gabba on Friday night, with Lachie Neale, Hugh McCluggage and Josh Dunkley the most likely targets.

"It's like the mullet, right? Everything comes back into fashion," Lyon said of coaches using a tagger.

"It's back in, it's back in. There was the rhetoric that you can't run a tag and play team defence.

"Saints, Dockers, we always ran a heavy tag. Geelong had (Cameron) Ling running around. You can certainly play team defence and have a tag."