Frustrated Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson has called on the AFL and its umpires to start adjudicating holding the ball decisions to avoid the game deteriorating further as a spectacle.
The Hawks survived a final-quarter flourish from North Melbourne on Sunday to run out four-point winners at Marvel Stadium, Clarkson watching on from the box as his side almost blew a 30-point lead midway through the final term.
Already disappointed with how his side had finished the match, Clarkson also took aim at the "spectacle" the two sides produced and said the game was in trouble if anyone was comfortable with what was produced on Sunday, no matter the closeness of the final result.
"I hope I'm not the only one who thought it was dreadful, there were just no highlights in the game," Clarkson said post match. "We got a result, we bank it and move on; I don't think North played well and I don't think Hawthorn played well.
"But having said that you compete and you're trying to get four points, and fortunately for us, and very fortunately in the end, we got the four points and we move on.
"There's a lot of things about the game; you put a lot of time and effort and endeavour into the game; we had 69 tackles, I don't think we had a free kick from a tackle. Sixty-nine tackles and not one of them can be adjudicated holding the ball? What's happened to our game? You can't have that many tackles and not one of them be incorrect disposal.
"And you wonder why the game is an arm wrestle and you can't get any open footy; tonight's game was just ... if that's the spectacle we're trying to search for in our game, then our game's in a dreadful space.
"But we're better than that and I think we can do a helluva lot better by opening the game up a little bit, and adjudicate some of those holding the balls, for both sides, not just for the fact that we got 69 tackles. There was times when we got nailed in a tackle and it should have been holding the ball, too.
"Please, umps, just pay them, open the game up."
Geelong and Melbourne had earlier Sunday played out another low-scoring, tight, contest, the two sides managing just two goals each to halftime.
Geelong coach Chris Scott spoke of his frustration of how the game had become bogged down in recent years, and suggested one way to fix the problem could be to reduce the number of players on the field to 16 aside.
Clarkson simply called on the umpires to follow the rule book.
"No I'm not, in the camp of [16 players]," Clarkson said. "We've got a rule book and the rule book says incorrect disposal, and particularly if you've had a prior opportunity.
"There were times tonight, on both sides, both Hawthorn and North Melbourne, a player with the footy had ample opportunity to make a decision with the ball and we didn't adjudicate that it was incorrect disposal or that he had an opportunity. I can understand that it might slant in favour of the ball-player a little bit. But every time? come on."
Clarkson said the AFL couldn't possibly believe the game was currently in good health.
"They'll listen to this press conference, no doubt, and hopefully they hear it loud and clear," he said. "The scores, the AFL can't be happy ... two goals each, the MCG, was it? Beautiful winter's day ... no rain, two goals each, Geelong and Melbourne, who I both rate as sides, both sides I think can play finals this year, and it's two goals each at half time. Fair dinkum."