Eagles coach Michael Godden leaves the Adelaide Oval after his team’s five-point loss to North Adelaide in the controversial preliminary final. Picture: Sarah Reed
Eagles coach Michael Godden leaves the Adelaide Oval after his team’s five-point loss to North Adelaide in the controversial preliminary final. Picture: Sarah Reed

Coach fires up at SANFL after grand final fiasco

WOODVILLE-West Torrens coach Michael Godden says his players feel let down and the club believes fans are losing faith in the SANFL after the decision to deny the team a spot in this weekend's grand final.

The Eagles were shattered on Monday night when their preliminary final conqueror, North Adelaide, was cleared to play in the premiership decider against Norwood despite being found "grossly negligent" in fielding 19 men for the first three minutes and 39 seconds of the last quarter against the Eagles on Sunday.

Godden got the news of the tribunal hearing at home late on Monday night after the Eagles had trained, and sent a text message to his players advising them their season was over.

The club may chase compensation from the league over the move.

"I had to break it to the players that 'that's it' and there's nothing we can do about it," Godden told The Advertiser on Tuesday after two sleepless nights.

"It hurts me because we ask a lot of these players. They work full-time, get paid absolutely nothing to play league footy and unfortunately they feel let down.

"We are critical as a society on them to hit every target and do everything right and rightly or wrongly. They feel like they've been let down by the system and I'm right with them.

"We like to support them to the end of the earth but there's nothing more we can do.

"Myself and the coaching staff get on with it, but players who pour their heart and soul into it deserve to feel better and they don't.

"I'm pretty flat, but you have come to terms with some situations in football that are out of your control.

"As a football person I just assumed we would be playing. I might have been naive because of the emotion of it and I acknowledge that, but at the club I loaded all the vision of Norwood, we had a meeting about game plan. Not until 11pm last night did I think we wouldn't be playing."

The club does not agree with the decision but has accepted it and understands there is no avenue for appeal.

It also does not believe North Adelaide deliberately fielded an extra man.

But chief executive Luke Powell confirmed the football department and board would meet in the next 24 hours to discuss possible avenues for compensation for loss of potential income.

That could be based around merchandise sales, uplift in membership and post-game functions.

"Over the whole process what it's shown is the public is split and a lot may have lost faith in the SANFL competition, which is disappointing," Powell said.

Godden speaks with his players at training on Monday night. Picture: Matt Loxton
Godden speaks with his players at training on Monday night. Picture: Matt Loxton

Godden explained the chaos of trying to deal with an opposition with an extra man on the field during the last quarter on Sunday. The Eagles led by 47 points in the third term but lost by five.

"I'm disappointed with the way we played in the last quarter but there are two things - there's the measurable, which is the 19 men on the field and the ability to score, so the eight points (scored by North Adelaide while the extra man was on the ground)," he said.

"Then there's the immeasurable, which only football people will truly understand. The fact that we spent the first third of that quarter trying to work out where this extra man was coming from.

"We weren't 100 per cent aware of the 19th man in the box - all we could see was a player kept spilling out the front of the stoppage and we were frantically trying to work out where he was coming from.

"We got a message about the five-minute mark to say 'they've had 19 on', but momentum had swung and momentum is king in football and we had to adjust our structures.

"I'm frustrated because from a coach's point of view there was chaos, and no one understands that other than people who have coached.

"That's what disappoints me, as a coach maybe I should have done it better, but there is nothing in the handbook that says 'Wow, they might have an extra player out there.'

"Because when I was screaming at my assistants at the three or four-minute mark, going 'Where the hell is this bloke coming from?' we were in total disarray.

"After 200 games of league footy I couldn't work it out and it was frustrating, it changed the whole mindset of the box.

"The people who don't understand would say, 'The 19th man may not have affected the play', but even if he's standing on the wing that's still someone we have to cover.

"So my players were going off at each other, getting angry because they weren't manning up, but the reality was they were all manning up.

"The mindset change from that is critical, and it's hard to quantify how the best defensive side in the competition would cough up seven goals in 10 minutes.

"Either North Adelaide did a great job and if that's it then well done to them, but I find it difficult to believe and that's what I have to live with."

reece.homfray@news.com.au



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