AFL fans lose it as West Coast's Elliot Yeo dudded in free kick drama against Kangaroos

North Melbourne's drought-breaking win came in highly controversial fashion.

Angry footy fans have flooded social media in response to a controversial holding the ball free kick against West Coast Eagles star Elliot Yeo that helped North Melbourne claim a drought-breaking win in the AFL on Saturday. The struggling Kangaroos finally got their season up and running with a first win in 12 games, but it came under highly contentious circumstances as fans hit out at one of the game's most unpopular rules.

The AFL decided to tweak the holding the ball rule recently to give players less time to dispose of the ball. But rather than simplifying things, it seems to have only led to more confusion for officials, players and coaches. And Saturday's win for the Kangaroos was the perfect example as viewers slammed the decision to award Jy Simpkin a crucial fourth quarter free kick that saw him kick a go-ahead goal.

West Coast were left stunned after Elliot Yeo was pinged for a controversial incident that helped North Melbourne score their first win of the AFL season. Pic: Fox Footy/Getty
West Coast were left stunned after Elliot Yeo was pinged for a controversial incident that helped North Melbourne score their first win of the AFL season. Pic: Fox Footy/Getty

The holding the ball free kick on Yeo looked incredibly harsh, with the Eagles star putting a big tackle on George Wardlaw, before trying to regather the footy. He was almost immediately then tackled by Simpkin after grabbing the loose ball, with Yeo and his coach Adam Simpson looking genuinely perplexed when the Roos were awarded a free kick.

West Coast were two points up at the time but the eye-opening call from the umpire presented Simpkin with a 45m set shot that he nailed to kick the Kangaroos in front. Paul Curtin then put the icing on the cake with another goal for North Melbourne to seal the 11.8 (74) to 8.17 (65) win.

Seen here, Kangaroos players celebrate their AFL win over West Coast.
The Kangaroos capitalised on the contentious fourth quarter free kick against West Coast to score their first win of the AFL season. Pic: Getty

However, all the talk after the match focused on the free kick against Yeo, which sparked backlash across the AFL world. Fox Footy’s Ben Dixon and Brad Johnson were both adamant it was not a free kick, with viewers labelling it "pathetic" and "appalling" and describing it as one of the worst calls of the season. “He certainly didn’t dive on the ball – he picked the ball up and got to his knees,” Dixon said.

“Diving on the ball is you’re actually hatching it. You jump on. He hasn’t jumped on it.” Johnson added: “He’s got no prior. He’s done the right thing – laid the tackle. Ball spills out, picks it up, tries to get to his feet to feed off and then is tackled immediately. That’s not holding the ball.”

Simpson looked astounded when cameras panned to the West Coast coach in his box at the time of the call. And when asked about the crucial umpiring decision after the game, he was careful not to say anything that would land him in trouble. "I can't comment," Simpson responded, before opening up on the divisive tweak to the holding the ball rule.

"I think it will settle," Simpson added. "Players adjust, but on the fly it is difficult. We can't coach differently, so I don't know what to say to Elliot - 'don't win the ball?' I don't know... I'm not talking about that free kick any more, because I'll get in trouble.

The Kangaroos' first win of the season came after forward Nick Larkey kicked five goals and Zac Fisher racked up 36 disposals. Simpkin was also crucial with both of his goals coming in the final quarter. He also had 28 disposals to go with his crucial contributions in front of goal.

Despite the game-defining call that went against him, Yeo was brilliant in West Coast's final-quarter charge, where he racked up nine possessions, five clearances and a goal. West Coast defender Liam Duggan was concussed late in the game after a clash of heads with a teammate.

with AAP