The unbeaten Pambula Panthers have been left fuming after a premature finish to their round 15 SCAFL clash with the Bega Bombers robbed them of a chance to record a 13th straight victory.
The match was called off with the Panthers leading 53-15 with six minutes remaining in the first half, following an injury to Bomber Joey Gehrig, who was taken to hospital with a broken collarbone after colliding with Pambula midfielder Aaron Proctor.
Play was suspended for around 50 minutes as the teams waited for an ambulance to arrive at Pambula Sporting Complex and take Gehrig off the ground.
Under SCAFL rules, if the match is delayed for more than half an hour before the halftime siren sounds, it must be declared a draw.
Officials from both clubs were involved in a heated discussion post-match, with Pambula left disappointed at the decision.
Panthers president Bryan Hammond did not wish to speak immediately after the match, but said he will do so over the coming days.
Incredibly, it was the third match of the day to end in these circumstances, after the development squad and under 16s fixtures were also abandoned due to injuries.
“The two points are what we need, but the boys were playing really well," Bombers’ senior coach Matt Fleet said
“We were down by six goals, but in the end, we were off the ground for 50 minutes and the rules state that at that time, the game can be called off.
“The two points mean we’re going to be a really good finals chance, but obviously they’re going to be upset."
Forward Tom Hammond was the standout for Pambula, getting things underway with the first major of the afternoon, before kicking two more in the second quarter.
This included a stunning strike from a set shot, from the boundary line just inside 50.
Already boasting an undefeated record after 12 matches, the Panthers were expected to win comfortably.
The odds lengthened even more for the Bombers when the team sheet revealed nine players were missing through injury, with Fleet lacing up the boots to join his charges on the field of battle.
Adam Blacka turned in a strong performance in the Bega forward line, kicking the Bombers’ only two goals and regular outpointing his defensive opponent.
“All you need to put is, ‘Adam Blacka is back’,” Fleet said.
“I was so proud of [the team]; I thought their discipline and endeavour was fantastic.
“Their integrity as well; they didn’t argue with the umpires or anything, and they just played as a team.
“Against the quality of the opposition, I think they can hold their heads high."
Correction: In an amendment to an earlier version of the story, SCAFL rules state that if the match is delayed by more than 30 minutes before halftime due to an injury, it must be declared a draw.