Player challenges may fix the AFL's score review farce

Every football season is remembered for something.

1934 will always be known as the year Bob Pratt kicked a record 150 goals from just 21 games, while 1970 is synonymous with Alex Jesaulenko's high-flying mark at the MCG. Mark Yeates' gut-crunching hit on Dermott Brereton was the sight and sound of 1989, and, most recently, 2017 was the extraordinary year of Dustin Martin.

This season, whether we like it or not, is shaping as the year blighted by score review errors. Nearly every week we've seen howlers ruin and decide games of football, all the while leaving players, coaches, fans and the media bemused.

There's no doubt the system has been heavily flawed since it was introduced in 2012, but instead of steady improvement over time, it seems to have taken a significant step backwards.

Right now, it is failing. But don't panic and give up just yet, there is a way to fix this.

We often compare the AFL's review technology to the likes of what is used in cricket or tennis, but there's one glaring difference. In those sports, the onus is on the players to decide whether or not a certain piece of play should be reviewed, while in the AFL we rely on someone locked away in a booth to review every single scoring play, often with only 20-25 seconds to make a decision.

What this does is pile enormous pressure on that person -- who is rumoured to be a member of AFL staff receiving as little as $200 per day -- and if something is even slightly off we scrutinise it for the remainder of the game and well into the following week.

Do you remember why this technology was introduced in the first place?

The workshopping all began after a howler of a call in the 2009 Grand Final when Geelong spearhead Tom Hawkins clipped the post with a second-half set shot, only for the goal umpire to signal a major.

That mistake almost decided the game and it was these blatant errors the AFL wanted to remove. Not so much whether or not a player had gotten a fingernail on a ball as it was sailing towards goal.

What the AFL should look to do is give each team one challenge per game, and if there's belief that an obvious error has been made, they can opt for a review. The captain would call for the review and it would have to be done before a certain amount of time has elapsed.

Goal umpires would still make their on-the-spot decision in every scoring play, but if something is reviewed and concrete evidence shows the decision should be overturned, then that's what happens. If the vision is inconclusive, the umpire's on-field decision stands.

Because only one, two or maybe three of these reviews would take place per game, the reviewer could be offered more time to reach the correct decision, as opposed to rushing through the match vision -- often not having the correct angles available in time -- as players and umpires stream back into the middle for a centre bounce.

The beauty of this idea is it takes the pressure off the umpires and it puts it back onto the players, and only targets the obvious howlers.

Just think about this. In cricket, if a batsman feathered one to the keeper and it wasn't reviewed by the fielding team, we wouldn't blame the technology or the umpiring at all. Instead, we just say the fielding side missed a trick.

It's the same in tennis. If a ball lands out of play but isn't challenged, then so be it. Play on. We don't say technology failed the player.

Don't get me wrong, implementing team challenges isn't going to solve all of the issues associated with the current score review system. After all, the AFL needs to continue investing in technology and ensure there's adequate cameras and angles at every stadium around the country.

Ideally, every decision made would be accurate, but that doesn't happen in any sport and it's unrealistic to believe it can happen in the AFL. But instead of relying on unsure and tentative umpires and untrained decision-makers analysing every scoring play, put the pressure back on the players and you'll quickly see the obvious howlers eliminated, which is something the AFL wanted to target when it introduced the system back in 2012.