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Callan Ward says he’s received death threats and vile comments on photos of his baby after being awarded a contentious free-kick that sealed GWS’ win over Essendon on Friday night.
Ward won the controversial free kick and then booted the winning goal as GWS overcame a historically slow start to wind in a 29-point margin and remain in the AFL's top eight.
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Ward collided theatrically with Shaun McKernan and was awarded the free kick, admitting in a post-game interview with teammate Heath Shaw: “I thought I played it pretty well ... I didn't 'play' for it, but I knew the contact was coming.”
The AFL world was firmly divided about the call, with many believing Ward had “flopped” and didn’t deserve the pivotal call.
But the controversy has taken a decidedly nasty turn with Ward revealing some disgusting fallout on Saturday.
“The reason I brought (it) up is that I know it (social media abuse) is a reality,” Ward said on 3AW radio.
“I won’t listen to it, but I know there are people that probably would and I think it just has to stop because if you have been getting death threats like I have been getting, some players couldn’t handle that.
“I guess with what has happened, the most disappointing thing is I have a lot of Essendon supporters and a lot of AFL supporters commenting on photos of Romeo, my baby, and saying that I am a flog and all this stuff.
“I guess I am copping a fair bit and that’s disappointing.
“I am in a situation where I am an AFL footballer, but at the same time I am away from my family and it is tough. It is disappointing to see where people feel the need to express their passion and hatred towards me at the moment.”
Channel 7 commentators Wayne Carey and Brian Taylor both suggested Ward had taken a dive.
“He certainly helped the decision in the end look a little better than it was,” Taylor said.
Carey added: “His courage will never be doubted this guy, but he did play for that though.”
And Bruce McAvaney agreed, saying: “I would have played it on to be truthful. Ward made a lot of it … I think that was play on, but I’m not an umpire.”
Sydney Swans champion Jude Bolton said Ward “hammed it up,” while commentator Andy Maher said Ward should be fined $500 in line with the punishment handed to Tom Papley for staging.
GWS stage comeback to pip Bombers
The Giants and Bombers managed just four points between them in the first quarter at Metricon Stadium - the lowest-scoring opening term since 1965.
But the Bombers broke the contest open with five straight second quarter goals, stretching that lead again early in the third term before their offence slowly disappeared in a 8.11 (59) to 8.7 (55) victory.
The Giants kicked just two first-half goals but Essendon did the same in the second, the win keeping the Giants in seventh and the Bombers just outside the eight.
Two final-quarter Jeremy Cameron goals and Shaw's first two-goal bag in eight years dragged them back, before recalled veteran Ward won the free kick and drilled the long-range goal for a 10-point buffer.
It meant the impressive Adam Saad's huge bomb in the final seconds was in vain.
Bombers coach John Worsfold resisting the urge to question the decision post-game after his opposite Leon Cameron went in to bat for the 222-game veteran.
“His second half was really spot on and for him to kick that goal at such a crucial time and give us a little buffer clearly made the difference,” Cameron said of Ward.
“There's going to be ... 30-40 free kicks throughout the game and there will be one side disappointed and another happy.
“But I thought our endeavour for the last 30, 40 minutes of that game willed us over the line.
“When you're playing with that momentum normally that run of the ball (with decisions) can go your way.”