“That decision is what everyone remembers,” says Mathew Cheeseman, and he’s right – a penalty in the 94th minute of a grand final to win the game tends to stick in the memory.
That it was a fiercely contested decision, and was decried as wrong by many observers initially, just added to the significance of the moment – never mind the fact that ultimately it would be proved spot on.
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When Besart Berisha went down in the Perth box there were just seconds remaining of the 2012 Grand Final. At 1-1 the game was heading for extra time – except suddenly it wasn’t, as Berisha fell under challenge from Liam Miller and referee Jarred Gillett awarded the penalty.
Perth’s players went ballistic, and it took several minutes for the spotkick to be taken. Berisha stepped up to take it, scored, and Brisbane had won back to back titles. Perth’s fury was absolute and remained that way, fanned by post-match media coverage that criticised the penalty award (including, for full disclosure, by this observer).
Except we were wrong, and Gillett was right. A day after the final, Fox Sports produced blown up footage, frame by frame, clearly showing contact between Berisha’s ankle and Miller’s foot. Slight contact, admittedly, but easily enough to justify the penalty when Berisha was running at speed.
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By then, though, the storm had been running for 24 hours. “Straight after the game, the first thing everyone was looking at was the players’ reaction – not in making the decision, but the way they were after,” said Cheeseman who was one of the assistant referees that day.
“The emotion and the rawness on the field was sustained (in viewing the decision as wrong) in the interviews and so on. You can’t help but start to have a sense of doubt – Jarred had given the penalty confidently, and from my vantage point it looked correct.
“We went out for dinner that night and we were trying not to watch the highlights on TV, then I flew home the next morning. It wasn’t until the next day that Fox Sports produced the additional footage which confirmed there was contact, and a real sense of vindication came over us.
“We were talking as a group, and you could sense the relief. You always give a decision to the best of your ability, but we knew the significance of this one.
“Really we had 24 hours of nervousness before we got the proof, if you like.”
Certainly enough proof for some observers – such as this one – to write a follow up story the next day, admitting we had got it wrong. Making the final score, Referee 1-0 Media.
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