A West Torrens protest
In a thrilling match at Norwood Oval in 1924, Norwood came from 25 points down to snatch a draw against top-of-the-ladder West Torrens, but a controversial behind awarded to the Redlegs led to an official protest against the result by West Torrens. Here's how the Adelaide newspapers covered the story as it unfolded.
Torrens Footballers Still Unbeaten — A Great Game at Norwood¹
On account of the fact that they had not suffered defeat this season, the meeting of West Torrens against Norwood, at the Norwood Oval, aroused a great amount of interest. The result, on the scores on the board, was a drawn game, but Torrens have signified their intention to protest against a behind that was posted for their rivals. The football shown was worthy of the traditions of both teams.
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West Torrens expressed their intention of protesting against the game being declared a draw following an incident in the first quarter, when, they allege, Umpire Raven blew his whistle for Daviess to take a kick, but the goal umpire signalled a point which was allowed to stand to the credit of Norwood. Until the full facts are placed before the league, it is impossible to forecast the outcome, everything depending on the version of the incident that will be given by Mr. Raven.
West Torrens Protest³
The committee of the West Torrens Football Club has decided to protest against the result of the game with Norwood. It is contended that Norwood were credited with a behind in the first quarter when a free was awarded to E. Daviess (right), the West Torrens goalkeeper.
West Torrens Protest. To be Dealt With on Saturday.⁴
The Football League has decided to deal next Saturday with the protest lodged by West Torrens. The field and goal umpires will then give evidence.
The match between Norwood and West Torrens or Saturday last, resulted in a draw. West Torrens lodged a protest immediately after the match, on the ground that during the first quarter a behind registered for the Norwood club was incorrectly recorded by Goal Umpire Bain.
The behind in question was the first credited to Norwood. A Norwood man kicked the ball, and the umpire waved his flag. West Torrens contended that it was a free kick to Daviess the goal-keeper. The field umpire did not give the all-clear signal, but a behind was recorded.
When the matter came under discussion by the league, the West Torrens secretary Mr H. W. Tomkins said he considered it was a question that ought not to be dealt with that night. The umpires should be present to state their case and a special meeting ought to be called to hear them.
Mr. C. McArthur (Port Adelaide) asked if any of the West Torrens delegates had approached the umpire, to which Mr. Tomkins replied that he had done so. Mr. E. H. Tassie thought the West Torrens secretary had made a mistake in going on to the playing arena to question the umpire.
Mr Tomkins—I consider was justified in doing so after what I had seen. I asked the question of the umpire, and he gave me an answer.
A motion that a special meeting of the league to be held to hear the evidence was submitted by Mr. Tomkins. There had never been a case, since his connection with football, that had been on all fours with the present one.
Mr. Alderman (Sturt)—Do you intend to call witnesses?
Mr. Tomkins—We have a number of witnesses to call.
Mr. Young (North Adelaide) was of the opinion that the matter should be referred to the umpire committee, and moved to that effect. Mr. Tassie said if they were going to question the decisions of umpires they were never going to get finality in these matters. Mr. McArthur was of opinion that the matter should be fully enquired into. Mr. Young (North Adelaide), in opposing the motion, said there were mistakes made every Saturday, and if the league was going to have special meetings to consider decisions which had been questioned they would be sitting all night.
Mr. Rugless endorsed Mr. Young's remarks. The league was skating on thin ice. Mr. H. D. Smith (Glenelg) disagreed with his co-delegate and considered that when an umpire made a mistake he should be informed of it. Mr W. Cope (Norwood) said he would always give the umpires full power. The scores of the match should be registered as recorded by the goal umpires and endorsed by the central umpire.
Mr. Rugless moved—"That Umpire Raven and Goal Umpire Bain be required to attend a meeting of the umpire committee for an explanation of the incident." The motion was carried, the date fixed being May 31. It was decided that only the evidence of the field and goal umpires be heard.
Football Dispute — Umpire's Decision Challenged. League in a Quandary.⁵
It is probable that never before in the history of the South Australian Football League have delegates been more puzzled than they were on Monday evening, when they were at a loss to discover a rule on which they could deal with the protest of the West Torrens Club in regard to an alleged wrongful registration of a point in favour of Norwood in the match last Saturday. The discussion, which extended over nearly the whole of the meeting, is believed to have been the first by the league in which such a point was involved.
The controversy centres around a rule which forms one of the basic principles of the Australian code of football and the outcome will be watched with keen interest, not only in this state, but throughout the Commonwealth, and especially by members of the Australian Football Council, which is the parent body of the sport.
The discussion followed upon the reading of a letter from the secretary of the West Torrens Club, who claimed that a point was wrongly awarded to the Norwood Club in the match at the Norwood Oval, and that the Torrens Club was entitled to a win, and, consequently, two premiership points. Mr. Mr. Tomkins (secretary of the West Torrens Club) said be did not think it was a matter which could be dealt with that night, because in fairness to the umpires, they should be given an opportunity of stating their case.
He moved that a special meeting should be held to consider the protest. The motion was seconded by the other Torrens delegate.
Mr. Tomkins— So far as the behind kicked after the bell was sounded in the match is concerned, we are consoled by the fact that the rule is definite on that point, although it was unfortunate for us.
Mr. J. K. Alderman (Sturt)— Does Mr. Tomkins intend to call evidence to prove that 'all clear' was not given?
Mr. Tomkins— Yes. We have plenty of witnesses to bring forward.
Mr: C. McArthur (Port Adelaide)— Did the West Torrens delegates approach the umpire during the game at all, and try to attend to this matter?
Mr. Tomkins— I approached the umpire at quarter-time, and questioned him as to whether the incident in question was a free kick or a behind. He replied, 'It was a free kick to Daviess.'
Mr. McArthur— Did you call his attention to the fact that a flag had been waved?
Mr. Tomkins— I questioned him about a behind being registered. Nothing was said about the flag.
Mr. F. Bennett (North Adelaide)— I think the matter should be referred to the umpire and permit committee, who could report to the league.
The Point at Issue.
Mr. J. F. Dawes (South Adelaide)— I have no objection to a special meeting if it will do any good, but, in the event of our discovering that the 'all clear' signal was not given can we upset the decision of the goal umpire who waved the flag?
The Chairman (Mr. A. J. McLachlan)— It struck me as remarkable that we could.
Mr. Dawes— If the umpire makes a mistake, and gives a decision, does that decision still hold good?
Mr. McLachlan (right)— It is the first time I have considered such a matter. It suggests to me that if it is shown that the central umpire did not give 'all clear.' it is open to somebody to enquire into it.
Mr. Dawes— This is a case where the central umpire or the goal umpire—or both—made a mistake, but the decision was made. Can we alter it, according to the rules?
Mr. McLachlan— Where do we get power as a league to enquire into this matter at all?
Mr. Dawes— There is only one place, and that is in the constitution. The clause reads:— 'The objects of the league are to hear and determine upon all disputes and matters relating to or arising out of the league bylaws, or the laws of the game in which the league or any of the league clubs shall be concerned.'
"That," continued Mr. Dawes, "gives us the right to hear this dispute."
Mr. McLachlan— Of course, that is the object of our bylaws. But where are we given power in our rules?
Mr. Dawes— There is nothing, except the clause I mentioned.
Mr. McLachlan — What does it say in our 'Rules for Umpires'?
Mr. Dawes— Nothing, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. McLachlan— I think this matter is hardly a dispute.
Mr. S. Whitford (South Adelaide)— Why is it not?
Question in Dispute.
Mr. McLachlan— It is really a challenge regarding one of the league umpire's decisions. I think it is a matter which the league should control.
Mr. Whitford— It is, distinctly, a dispute. It is a case of a club challenging the legality of a point.
Mr. McLachlan— I think it is a question as to whether a flag was waved.
Mr. Tomkins— We have evidence that the flag was waved, that it was a free kick to Daviess, and that the "all clear" signal was given.
Mr. McLachlan— That is the only point.
Mr. Tassie (left)— Directly we question the decisions of an umpire, we are never going to get any finality. I have seen premierships lost on the wrong decisions of goal umpires. Although sympathising with the West Torrens Club, we cannot question the decision of an umpire in any form of sport. If the decision in question was wrong, the central umpire should have rectified it then.
Mr. Dawes— Even if we find that the goal or central umpire made a mistake, we cannot annul the point given. We would only be wasting time at a special meeting.
Mr. Tomkins— Our point is that a behind was not kicked.
Mr. McLachlan— But look at rule 16 ('rules of the game'), which reads:— 'The two goal umpires shall be sole judges of goals or behinds, and their decision shall be final, except in cases where the ball has become 'dead,' either by the ringing of the bell, or decision of the field umpire'.
Mr. F. K. Gould (Sturt)— There is the point that the central umpire, in awarding the free, may have made the ball 'dead.'
Mr. Tomkins— That is our point.
Mr. Tassie— We have to decide in what way we are going to dispute the decision of the goal umpires.
Mr. McLachlan— Mr. Tassie's point is where the goal umpire's decision is final, according to our rules.
Mr. Tassie— If the ball was 'dead', a certain action should have taken place. If it had taken place, then, possibly, my team would have been in the position on the field to combat that action. If a mark had been given to Daviess, he would, perhaps, have had to get in an altogether different position.
Mr. McLachlan— I do not know whether that is so or not. But what really interests the league is this— If Mr. Tomkins fails to prove his claim, then that is the end of it. It may be proved that the central umpire's decision was wrong. I am positive that the field umpire's decision must not be questioned. We have got to arrive somewhere in this thing, because we might have to establish a precedent, here. The point is where it is open to us at all to challenge this umpire's decision. The rule seems to indicate that in certain circumstances it can be challenged.
Needs Looking Into.
Mr. McArthur— There is no doubt in my mind that this matter should be looked into. The goal umpire is governed by the central umpire, and if the central umpire says a certain thing, the goal umpire cannot take the reins. Until we hear what the umpire has to say we are surmising a lot of things. You cannot say on this rule that the goal umpire's derision is final.
Mr. Kenny (West Adelaide, right)— Doesn't the central umpire sign the goal umpires' cards?
The league secretary (Mr. Marlow)— He has signed them.
Mr. F. C. Young (North Adelaide) was opposed to the proposal to have a special meeting. The umpire's decision, he said, should be final. If the league was going to have special meetings every week to hear clubs' protests, there was no knowing where the matter would end. Mr. E. Rugless (Glenelg) was of the same opinion. The league, he said, was skating on very thin ice when it began querying umpires' decisions.
He was opposed to umpires being brought before the league and questioned regarding their decisions. The league prided itself on selecting men who were capable of controlling the game, and giving impartial decisions, and it must stand by those umpires. If they were not satisfactory, then it was time for the league to discuss them. Mr. D. Smith (Glenelg) was in sympathy with West Torrens. He believed that if an umpire made a mistake, he should he told about it.
Mr. Whitford contended that if a goal umpire was to have the last say in the matter, the rules should say so, and the rule in question did not say so. He was disposed to find out which rule was right. The rules had been challenged, and the challenge should be met.
Power to Act.
At this stage Mr. McLachlan, who during the discussion had been busily studying rule books with the secretary, declared that he believed it was competent for the league to enquire into the matter. "As long as the West Torrens Club can bring itself into line with rule 16, we must grant their request," he added. Mr. Rugless moved that the umpires in question should not be brought before the league, but should be asked to explain the incident to the umpire and permit committee.
Mr. Bennett (North Adelaide) seconded. Mr. Tomkins said that never previously had a case been before the league which was on all fours with that one. Mr. Gould was opposed to any one but the umpires being heard at the enquiry. He did not believe in hearing the views of spectators and supporters.
Adjourned Until Saturday.
Mr. McArthur said the sooner the matter was settled the better. The Australasian Football Council might want something to go on in regard to such a difficulty. The question was put to the vote, and Mr. Rugless's proposal was defeated. The motion of the West Torrens club was adopted. The enquiry was set down for Saturday evening.
Complaint from Norwood.
Mr. Tassie then protested against the motion of Mr. Tomkins in going on to the playing arena and approaching the umpire. Even if a mistake had been made, it was a wrong thing for a league delegate to do. Mr. Tomkins explained that he considered he had been justified in his action, in view of what he had seen. He asked the umpire one question and received an answer, that was all.
A special meeting of the Football League on Saturday enquired into the circumstances leading to a protest by the West Torrens Club against a point registered in favour of Nowood in the drawn game on Norwood Oval the week before. West Torrens club contended that Daviess, their goalkeeper, had been awarded a free kick, and that the goal-umpire had made a mistake and recorded a behind as the result of the ball passing between the posts. The goal umpire and central umpire, in evidence, emphatically agreed that the behind had been scored by Norwood as the result of a free kick by Bent. The protest was dismissed.
Ultimately the result had no impact on the final standings of the 1924 SAFL season. Had the protest been upheld, West Torrens would have received an extra premiership point and Norwood one fewer, and neither change would have affected the teams' standings. West Torrens finished on top of the ladder, and Norwood third. West Torrens went on to defeat Sturt in the 1924 Grand Final.
1. Register (Adelaide, SA), Monday 26 May 1924, page 6. Link: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/57387199
3. Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Monday 26 May 1924, page 15. Link: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/36672575
4. Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1889 - 1931), Tuesday 27 May 1924, page 18. Link: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/36672627
5. Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), Tuesday 27 May 1924, page 8. Link: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/57389029
6. Register (Adelaide, SA : 1901 - 1929), Monday 2 June 1924, page 4. Link: https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/57382374