|By DAMIEN SOUNESS
Melbourne Victory coach Ange Postecoglou has blasted rookie referee Lucien Laverdure for his treatment of injured playmaker Gui Finkler.
Finkler went down with a knee injury in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to Western Sydney Wanderers but was denied medical treatment by Laverdure and forced to drag himself from the playing field.
Scans on Wednesday revealed Finkler had ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament and will be out of action for up to eight months.
Postecoglou suggested Laverdure, who was officiating in just his fourth A-League match, and other referees were too easily swayed by vocal crowds who feel players are simulating injuries.
"He's done his ACL and he's had to crawl off the pitch without getting any medical help from our people," he said on Friday.
"We've got to be aware that players need to be protected and their welfare is the key thing.
"Whilst there's a real endeavour in this country to make sure we cut out simulating or acting, it's still a contact sport and people get hurt in our game.
"This is not a shot at referees about decisions, it's about just making sure that the workplace is respected and that players are going out there and putting their bodies on the line."
Postecoglou said Finkler was not the kind of player to feign injury and that the club's physiotherapist was forced to run on to the pitch without permission to treat the Brazilian.
"Sometimes with foreigners we assume they go down, [but] it was pretty clear that he'd done something fairly serious," he added.
"This time he goes down, asks for medical help and the referee deems that because he's close to the touchline he should just drag himself off.
"I'm not talking about refereeing mistakes; I'm just talking about a duty of care. This is just treating human beings with a bit of respect."
Postecoglou said Victory would look to sign a replacement player for Finkler when the A-League transfer period opens on January 14.
Victory host Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on Saturday with both teams looking to return to winning ways.
"They've had a couple of narrow losses that they could have easily won," Postecoglou said of Wellington.
"At their best, I think they're a tough nut to crack, but so are we, and I think that's the most important thing for us to get back to playing our best."
Postecoglou said Australia international Mark Milligan would return to the side from suspension, while he would decide on an immediate replacement for Finkler later on Friday.