AFL LEGEND Leigh Matthews says the Grand Final umpires choked when they didn't pay a free kick against West Coast before Dom Sheed kicked the winning goal.
Sheed broke Collingwood hearts with less than two minutes left at the MCG when he marked and coolly slotted a set shot from deep in a pocket in Saturday's five-point thriller.
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But Matthews, a four-time premiership coach including one with the Magpies in 1990, is adamant Sheed should've had the ball taken off him.
Matthews took a dim view of Willie Rioli's efforts to keep Collingwood defender Brayden Maynard from affecting Sheed's marking attempt and was scathing of the umpires' inaction.
"I think that proves that umpires can choke as well," Matthews told Channel Seven.
"That's a shepherd, that's not a protection, that's an illegal shepherd."
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Maynard furiously protested to controlling umpire Brett Rosebury as he set the mark for Sheed's fateful shot on goal.
Experienced whistleblowers Shaun Ryan and Matt Stevic rounded out the Grand Final umpiring panel that paid 30 free kicks for the match - 17-13 in Collingwood's favour - with just four awarded in the frantic final term.
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The AFL average for total free kicks paid per match across this season was just a tick more than 41.
"There were four free kicks (paid) in the fourth quarter so what we're saying is there were only four illegal actions in the last quarter," an incredulous Matthews continued.
"Seriously ... I don't believe in this principle that just because it's a big game in the last quarter (we) don't pay free kicks.
"If they're there they've got to be paid.
"... Those moments where you don't blow the whistle ... those moments are just as critical as the ones where you do."