A-League: Jets still waiting for FFA response to blow up

Jets coach Ernie Merrick

Jets coach Ernie Merrick

THREE days after Ernie Merrick lambasted match-day officials as ‘disgraceful’ the Jets coach is still waiting to learn if he will be sanctioned.

Contacted by the Newcastle Herald on Monday, an FFA official said that Head of A-League Greg O’Rourke was at a meeting of club chief executives and a decision on what action, if any, against Merrick would be determined on Tuesday.

Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna said although the club had not received a formal notice he was expecting a “please explain” letter.

Newcastle conceded two goals from dubious penalty decisions in the 2-all draw with Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium on Friday night. The visitors also had a goal by Jason Hoffman disallowed after an equally contentious ruling by the Video Assistant Referee, prompting Merrick to describe the officiating as “a disgrace” at full-time.

Merrick stood by his post-game comments on Monday.

“I just think that too many things went wrong at the weekend, not only with the VAR, there were a number of issues I was disappointed with,” he said. “Especially the last goal – two people going for the ball, a goalkeeper and a fullback, both had eyes on the ball. The goalkeeper couldn’t hang on to the ball and it dropped into the net. I don’t know why that was chalked off. The referee gave the goal and walked all the way back to the centre circle. He listened to someone else overrule something he had already ruled on. There needs to be better application of the VAR and it has to be a clear and obvious error.”

The process on Friday night seems at odds with a notification that FFA issued mid-season clarifying when the VAR should be used.

It stated in part: the VAR shall only intervene when there is a clear/obvious error or a completely missed incident by the on field referee.

Merrick was also highly critical of the second penalty [against Nikolai Topor-Stanley for handball] which he maintained was “absolutely ridiculous”. 

“If you read the rules, it has to be deliberate, the hand has to move towards the ball,” he said. “It is impossible from a ricochet off someone’s knee half a metre away to get his arm away. He was in a natural position because he had just kicked the ball. Everything says it wasn’t a penalty and yet a penalty was given.”

Merrick said he had not “heard anything from the FFA”

“No doubt I will receive a letter,” he said. “If this improves the way the game is refereed, I think it will be a good thing.”

Merrick is not the first coach to find fault with the VAR. Paul Okon, John Aloisi, Marco Kurz and Josep Gombau have also expressed dissatisfaction with a number of aspects.

Adelaide United chairman Greg Griffin on Monday wrote to the FFA asking for the VAR to be cancelled after the Reds’ controversial 2-all draw with the Mariners.

In an explosive email obtained by News Limited Griffin said: “AUFC can only wonder where it would be on the ladder if it had throughout this season not been subjected to poor refereeing performances and inconsistent usage of the VAR technology to address those obvious errors that other clubs have benefited from.”

But unlike his contemporaries Merrick remain supportive of the VAR.

“I was one of the ones very pro getting it through and wanted it to be applied,” he said. “I still think the technology is good and should be utilised and the VAR should be a major part of the game moving forward. But I think it should be applied much better.

“That is the key, the application of the VAR and whether the person handling the video referee is an assistant or  the head referee.”

Merrick confirmed that midfielder Ben Kantarovski (hamstring) would not make the trip to Brisbane to tackle the Roar on Saturday and Argentine winger Pato Rodriguez (calf) is also in doubt.

“Ben could play this weekend, but knowing where we are at and going into the finals, I’d rather save him for one more week,” Merrick said.

Meanwhile, little used defender Daniel Alessi has been released by the Jets and will link with NSW Premier League club Manly.