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Chris Fagan responds after Brisbane 'robbed' by 'ridiculous' AFL grand final call

Fans and commentators were crying foul after Collingwood's four-point win over the Lions.

Chris Fagan and the Brisbane Lions, pictured here in the AFL grand final.
Many thought Chris Fagan and the Brisbane Lions were dudded by a late call in the AFL grand final. Image: Getty/Channel 7

Chris Fagan has refused to add weight to the controversial finish to Saturday's AFL grand final between Collingwood and Brisbane, after many felt the Lions were dudded by a crucial late call. The Magpies won their 16th flag and first since 2010 in an extraordinary 12.18 (90) to 13.8 (86) victory in front of 100,000 fans at the MCG.

Fans and commentators are calling it the best grand final ever played, however the finish was shrouded in controversy. A Joe Daniher goal got the Lions back within four points with a couple of minutes remaining, and Fagan's side produced a last-gasp push towards their forward 50.

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One of the umpires paid a free kick to the Lions after Lachie Neale was taken around the legs, just as the co-captain was hand-balling to Zac Bailey. Whether or not Bailey heard the whistle remains to be seen, but the Lions star played on and got away a kick that went straight to the Magpies and resulted in a turnover.

The umpire paid 'advantage' because Bailey had played on and moved the ball forward, a decision that sparked widespread outrage because it meant the Magpies neutralised the threat and held on for victory. “That wasn’t a good advantage that one,” Matthew Richardson said in commentary for Channel 7. “That is ridiculous. They didn’t know it was their free kick.”

Co-commentator Luke Hodge added: “Poor advantage this. They didn’t know there was a free kick. Tripped the ankle. That is not advantage.”

Chris Fagan responds to controversial grand final call

When asked about the call in his post-match press conference, Lions coach Fagan was non-committal. “I haven’t seen it, so I won’t comment on it,” Fagan said. “I didn’t know the whistle had been blown by the umpire to be honest. You guys have got a better feel for that than I have. I’ll have to watch the replay.”

The advantage rule is covered under section 20.2 of the official laws of the AFL. It states: "A field umpire will call and signal ‘advantage’ where a team offended against demonstrates an intent to continue with play within a reasonable time."

Chris Fagan and Craig McRae, pictured here after the AFL grand final.
Chris Fagan and Craig McRae shake hands after the AFL grand final. (Photo by Daniel Pockett/AFL Photos/via Getty Images) (via Getty Images)

While Bailey clearly demonstrated an intent to continue play, whether or not he had a "reasonable time" can be debated. Popular social media account 'Has the umpire made a bad decision' commented on Saturday night: "I think the ump got it right. Lions kicked the ball forward after FK was called - if that gets marked by Brisbane and it's not paid advantage, there would be howls. No real way to read minds and tell if they wanted to take it or not."

A follow-up post pointed out that the law doesn't say anything about whether an advantage has actually been gained. "Nothing about it being actually advantageous," the post read. "Nothing about making sure they've heard the whistle. It's a matter of fact. Kick forward after the whistle = advantage. Bad rule, correct decision."

Former Brisbane and Port Adelaide player Tom Rockliff was among the many up in arms. "How is that advantage?" he wrote on social media. "Disgraceful. Lions robbed."

Others described the call as "awful" and "horrific", while many more declared the actual problem lies in the actual rule rather than the umpire's call. It was one of a number of calls that caused controversy throughout a pulsating grand final.

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The Lions have now made the finals five years running without a premiership to show for it. But Fagan is adamant the premiership window is still wide open.

"We're well and truly in the window," the 62-year-old said. "I think we've only just moved into the widow."

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