UPDATE: The AFL has approved the decision not to award a free kick to Essendon in the final seconds of Thursday night’s thriller against Sydney.
Bombers fans, who were angered by the umpiring throughout the night, felt Tom Hickey was caught holding the ball with 40 seconds left at the SCG.
The ruckman took the ball out of a ruck contest and could not get the ball away as Essendon youngster Nik Cox tackled him, pinning an arm.
Watch the 2021 Toyota AFL Premiership Season. Every match of every round Live on Kayo. New to Kayo? Try 14-Days Free Now >
However the Herald Sunreports the league has ticked off the call of play on.
After the 2018 season, a rule change allowed ruckmen to take the ball out of a ruck contest without it counting as prior opportunity.
“We are looking to advance ruckmen, we want all types of players playing the game,” AFL footy operations boss Steve Hocking said of the rule change at the time.
“This is a huge advantage as far as the ruckmen goes.”
The decision split opinions in the immediate aftermath of the three-point Sydney win.
“The rule is if you grab it out of the ruck it doesn’t count as prior, you’ve just got to be trying to make an attempt,” former St Kilda star Leigh Montagna said on Fox Footy’s First Crack post-game.
“I think that’s the right call not to pay it but I’m not convinced.”
Co-pannelist and 1988 Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy added that the rule itself had become far more open to interpretation than it had once been.
“We see guys who have the ball do a 360 (degree turn), then attempt to get rid of it and it’s play on,” he said.
“One of the problems we’ve got is they’ve tightened up what is prior opportunity to such a degree, the difference between having it and not having it is so minuscule, that it’s almost in the eye of the beholder.
“I’ve always been of the view that you should reward the ball winner. To me, he’s had one and a half steps, he’s been tackled pretty much straight away, I would’ve said play on.”
Brisbane Lions great Jonathan Brown was scathing of the decision post-match.
“That was a mistake, that should’ve been paid holding the ball … I thought that was a poor decision by the umpire,” he said.