THE VFL has given the tick of approval to a controversial 50m penalty that denied Coburg its maiden victory of the season over Sandringham, with the game on Saturday instead ending in a heartbreaking draw for the home side.
After receiving a free kick for holding the ball dying moments of the game at Coburg City Oval, St Kilda-listed rookie and Sandringham player Doulton Langlands had the opportunity to tie the scores with a set-shot kick at goal from 45m out.
Langlands' kick fell short and the Coburg players and coaching staff began to celebrate, only to realise out-of-zone AFL-listed umpire Andrew Mitchell had paid a 50m penalty against a Coburg trainer for running across the mark to tend to an injured player.
Langlands slotted his set-shot from the goal square after time expired, leaving the final scores tied at 79-apiece.
"In any competition you've got apply the rules and the rule is that you can't run through the mark or the protected area," AFL Victoria competitions manager John Hook told AFL.com.au.
"It was the correct decision. You can't say we feel sorry for Coburg and let it go, because of their situation or anything like that. Rules are rules."
Scott Jeffery, who has umpired in more than 300 AFL games, and Alex Whetton were the other AFL-listed field umpires in charge of the game.
The first-year trainer was looking to tend to injured Coburg player Sam Lowson, who had injured his ankle just prior to Langlands taking the mark.
Another trainer was already with Lowson when the mistake to cross the mark was made.
Under AFL laws, if a field umpire is under the impression that any player or official from the opposing side enters the protected area, except when a player is accompanying or following within two metres of an opponent, they can pay a free kick and award a 50m penalty.
It is understood Coburg would not have grounds to lodge a protest or challenge the umpire's decision based on the rigidity of that rule.
"As unfortunate as it was, and we're sympathetic to it, the rule was applied correctly," Hook said.
Coburg came from 32 points down at three-quarter time to claim their first points of the season, albeit not the maximum four points, following a run of 12 successive losses this season.