Footy fans are up in arms after a controversial umpiring decision in the dying stages of Sydney's thrilling three-point victory over Essendon at the SCG on Thursday night.
The Swans survived a last-ditch attempt from Essendon, however Bombers fans were left up in arms after Sydney ruckman Tom Hickey got away with what they thought should have been holding the ball in the final minute.
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Hickey had grabbed the ball out of the ruck for the Swans with just 40 seconds left to play, but was quickly tackled by Nic Coix, who brought him to ground.
Despite Bombers players and fans pleading for holding the ball, the umpire said Hickey had no prior opportunity to get rid of the footy - with a ball-up instead of a crucial free kick for Essendon.
The non-call prompted fierce debate on social media as well as confusion in some quarters, with many questioning why Hickey wasn't penalised after grabbing the ball from the ruck.
Former St Kilda midfielder Leigh Montagna said the decision was justifiable, but that he remained unconvinced it was ultimately the correct one.
“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,” he told Fox Footy after the match.
“I think that’s the right call not to pay it but I’m not convinced.”
His co-host, former Brownlow Medal winner Gerard Healy, said different emphasis being placed on different interpretations of the rules was making life difficult.
“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.”
Swans escape AFL thriller against Bombers
With Sydney clinging to a four-point lead late in the game, Franklin took a mark and converted the set shot to record his third major of the night, the 950th of his career and his 73rd against Essendon, the most he has kicked against any club.
Essendon fought to the end, with Cale Hooker booting a late goal and Sydney defender Dane Rampe making a desperate touch to save another, but time ran out for the visitors as they went down by three points.
It was the fifth time in their past seven contests the game had been settled by 10 points or less, Sydney winning 11.17 (83) to 12.8 (80).
Sydney has captivated the AFL community with their free-flowing style, scoring over 100 points in each of their first three wins.
But on Thursday night they proved they can win ugly and come from behind.
"That's the most pleasing thing out of it, you get behind and you're scrapping along," Sydney coach John Longmire said.
"You're finding a different way to win."
Longmire praised Essendon for their pressure in the final quarter in which they laid over 30 tackles.
While much has been made of Sydney's young guns, Longmire acknowledged the important contributions on Thursday from veterans Franklin, Rampe, Josh Kennedy and Jake Lloyd.
The Bombers kicked six straight goals either side of quarter-time to get out to a 25-point lead in the second quarter.
Jake Stringer snagged a couple of early goals and Darcy Parish was also prominent in the Bombers surge.
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