‘Absolute joke’: AFL final umpiring slammed

Brisbane and Port Adelaide are starting their quests to end long premiership droughts with umpiring in the spotlight.

AFL: The Giant’s rolled to a 24-point win over St Kilda, due in large part to two great goals by Toby Bedford.

The Lions won the last of three consecutive flags back in 2003.

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They lost a shot at a fourth straight title against Port Adelaide the following year, the South Australian side’s only AFL premiership to date.

With the winner on Saturday night going straight through to a home preliminary final, there is a huge amount on the line.

We’ll have all the big talking points for you here.

Coach Ken Hinkley is under pressure to produce a deep finals run with the Power. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/Getty Images)

9.05pm AEST – Umpires firmly in the spotlight

Calls of bias are common among AFL fans, including a regular suspicion that Victorian commentators are always cheering for Melbourne sides, Brian Taylor among the worst protagonists there.

That can also, of course, extend to umpiring in the game in the eyes of fans.

Following some contentious calls across the course of this huge clash at the Gabba, fans took to social media to make their feelings known as the Lions held a lead throughout so far.

8.20pm AEST – Feisty clash unfolding at the Gabba

As expected, Brisbane got off to a strong start as it aimed to keep an unbeaten Gabba record in 2023 intact.

The Lions had the first three goals on the board in quick succession as the home fans roared in delight.

Port came into the match with an identical 17-6 win-loss record to the Queenslanders, however, and took the fight right up to Brisbane.

That included a stoush that broke out between Port’s Jason Horne-Francis and Brisbane star Charlie Cameron.

The Lions seemed to have the answers over the first half, but the Power were comfortably keeping in touch.

7.20pm AEST – The night doesn’t start well

With the teams in place and final formalities playing out, all that was left was a quick rendition of Advance Australia Fair and then the Sherrin could be bounced.

Sadly, it didn’t prove to be quite so straightforward.

Liliya Butonova, who is listed as a Brisbane-based soul singer on an entertainment website, may have got a little stage fright.

Butonova started well enough, albeit a little off-key, before an issue arose towards the end.

Clearly thinking the anthem ended on the words “Advance Australia Fair” prior to the chorus, she held the word “fair” and then stopped singing.

Liliya Butonova singing the national anthem pre-match. Photo: Fox Footy

Unfortunately, the chorus line “in joyful strains then let us sing, Advance Australia Fair” was still to come.

To her credit, Butonova realised her mistake and jumped back in after missing “in joyful”.

It was a moment that didn’t get missed on social media.

6.45pm AEST – No changes for either team

Following the dramas for the earlier final between St Kilda and GWS, won by the Giants, the initial stages of the evening match were straightforward.

The Saints (Tim Membrey) and Giants (Stephen Coniglio) had an important player ruled out on game day.

No such issues for the Lions or Power, however, who lined up as selected.

The Lions were unbeaten all season long at home and firm favourites to knock off the Power and earn a week off and home preliminary final.

The vanquished team will host the Giants next week.

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