North Melbourne players react after their loss to Collingwood in R14, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

THE AFL says umpires were right to not award a 50m penalty to North Melbourne late in its loss to Collingwood on Sunday, but has conceded the official erred by not calling play on or directing the Magpies players to stand the mark.

With 41 seconds remaining and the Roos trailing by just two points, North's Bailey Scott caught a kick from Nick Daicos and the umpire blew his whistle to signal a mark had been taken.

As Scott then took some steps inbound before back peddling, Collingwood pair Beau McCreery and Steele Sidebottom rushed towards Scott to tackle him, running over point where the mark was taken.

The AFL's footy boss Laura Kane says once Scott took a few steps inbound, the umpire should have called play on. She said given the umpire erred in giving no direction after blowing the whistle, either to play on or for the Collingwood players to stand the mark, the Magpies pair were correctly not penalised with a 50m penalty.

Kane added that because the umpire made an error in not giving a direction after blowing the whistle, the decision to bring the ball back to where the mark was taken was the correct one to "regain control from a series of confusing incidents".


"It was a confusing situation and I understand why people are confused and left wanting to understand what happened," Kane told Footy Feed Extra.

"You can see on the vision, Bailey Scott takes the mark, the umpire blows his whistle and one of two calls could be made. It could be play on immediately, or it could be stand, which would indicate the mark had been paid.

"Neither of these two calls were made in the immediate moment after the free kick has been blown, and Bailey takes four steps or so inbound and looks to play on. So the correct call should have been play on initially.

"That has caused confusion for the players in the immediate vicinity, the Collingwood players, that there was a delay whistle-to-message and that communication was the error, I guess you could call it.

"The important part for the umpire then is to make sure he or she has control of the situation and the decision to regain control from a series of confusing incidents was to pay the mark and bring the ball back.


"The initial call, the initial mistake, was that play on wasn't called. It should have been called play on.

"So Collingwood players (were) anticipating that they were going to hear a call post-whistle. A really common discussion around players is play the whistle and when you hear it, wait for what's next. What's next didn't come quick enough so the confusion for those Collingwood players was what to do, as was probably the level of confusion that sat with Bailey himself.

"If the umpire had called stand indicating that a mark had been paid and those Collingwood players continued to contest the player or the ball, it would have been a 50m penalty.

"But what has happened here is (there was a) whistle and no immediate call or instruction. Players have been left confused and that's what we're focused on. We are focusing on the time between the whistle and the communication and making sure the umpires understand that the initial call should have been play on, given he took four steps or so inbound and every objective marker of play on was there."

Scott was at the centre of another controversial moment earlier in the second quarter, where he claimed he touched a shot from Collingwood's Jack Crisp, which was awarded a goal.

Despite the replay indicating the ball may have clipped Scott's fingers, Kane said the ARC's assessment was that the vision was inconclusive and defaulted to the on-field decision.


"We need certainty in the ARC and our score reviewers need to see and be certain that the vision shows very clearly that the ball was touched, and we didn't have that certainty," she said.

"It's a line ball call in the moment. Our score reviewers have to make a decision with what they have available to them, which is the vision and the images that they had. In an absence of being completely certain, they went with the umpire's call.

"We're happy with the process. I understand how you could get to either outcome, but their job is to make a decision and they've made one to back in the umpire because they didn't have definitive vision or a definitive image to make that call."

Kane said she would continue to provide public explanations of contentious umpiring decisions, despite criticism last week from St Kilda coach Ross Lyon that the League had "gone too far".

Ross Lyon speaks to the media on August 17, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

"I've been really clear from the start ... (that we) would be transparent and talk to key issues," she said. "So when we have key moments or incidents that fans want to know about, we want to be able to communicate why and how and what goes on behind the scenes to the way we officiate the game.

"That will continue to be important to me.

"We speak to all clubs and make sure they are really clear on what we are talking to. We clearly don't have time to go through every incident, but there are other forums to achieve that feedback loop. If clubs have other questions or want more communication, they can send those though. I talk to coaches all the time about anything and everything."