Controversy has erupted following Essendon’s thrilling three-point victory over Adelaide, with an umpire under fire for his decision to not award the Crows a holding the ball free kick in the final seconds of the match.

With the ball inside Adelaide’s attacking 50, Bombers ruckman Sam Draper dived down on top of it, with a tackling Taylor Walker pinning the ball underneath him; however, as the siren blew, the umpire called for a ball-up, ensuring the Bombers would hold on.

The non-decision sparked cries of protest from the Crows players, with Walker branding the moment an ‘absolute joke’ in a heated exchange with the umpire; and their belief they were robbed has been the general consensus around the footy world.

Speaking on Fox Footy immediately after the match, former great Garry Lyon said Draper ‘decided to lay on top of the footy’.

“Not sure you can do that… it’s unfair to isolate it into one incident at the end. But it looks to me like he fell on it and then hooked it back in.”

Fellow panellist and former Collingwood legend Nathan Buckley described Draper’s act as a ‘brain fade’, to which Jonathan Brown replied: “It’s not a brain fade now, it’s a winning moment.”

“He’s made sure it’s there and lied [sic] on it,” Buckley added.

“Technically, in any part on the field at any time of the game, that is holding the ball. It was a little tap in, then he laid on it.”

Hawthorn four-time premiership great Jordan Lewis initially claimed the decision was ’50-50′, saying Walker had contributed to the ball being pinned by knocking it under Draper; however, the Bomber’s controversial reaction to the incident, recreating his dive onto the ball as he and his teammates celebrated victory, caused him to back down.

Speaking on Fox Footy Live, another former great in Nick Dal Santo was even harsher, describing the incident has ‘as blatant as you can see’.

“There’s almost no excuse [to not pay a free kick],” he said, before taking issue with Draper’s recreation.

“They [Essendon] got away with one, and this doesn’t help at all, when you’re mimicking and reliving the moment only moments later.”

Fellow panellist Ben Dixon said the non-call was ’embarrassing’ as well as ‘very, very funny’, while Cameron Mooney claimed the Dons ruckman was ‘a fire blanket that literally just put the Crows’ season out’.

“This is one of the all-time flops,” Mooney continued.

“We don’t need to hear the rules on this one, that was a flat out holding the ball. The umpire completely missed it. And now he’s actually taking the P-155 about it! ‘Have a look at this boys, this is what I did!’”

Over on Channel 7’s broadcast, the commentators were also in agreement that the Crows had been dudded, with former great Luke Hodge particularly scathing.

“That is holding the ball… you’ve got four umpires, one of them should have seen that,” Hodge said.

Essendon celebrate their win over Adelaide.

Essendon celebrate their win over Adelaide. (Photo by James Elsby/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Commentator James Brayshaw agreed, but said it would need to be a ‘brave umpire’ to make such a decision ‘in the last second of the game’.

However, not everyone was in agreement that the umpire had made the wrong decision, with Matthew Richardson describing the incident as ‘line-ball’.

“There was one angle that looked like it got pushed back under him [Draper],” the Richmond legend said.

“Then there was the other angle that looked like he was definitely lying on top of it… if that’s anywhere else on the ground at any other time, it would have been called.”

Speaking to Fox Footy after the match, even Bombers captain Zach Merrett admitted he was ‘holding [his] breath’ while waiting for the umpire’s whistle.

“We’ve certainly spent a lot of time and work and energy on those moments [leading late in games]. To execute it for the most part was very pleasing… but no doubt it was a line ball call,” Merrett said.

As for Draper himself, when shown a replay of the incident by Brian Taylor in Channel 7’s Roaming Brian segment, the 25-year old could only chuckle.

“I think I got pushed or my legs gave way – I don’t know, either one,” he said.

“What else can I do?”

Draper added that he considered the non-decision a fair even-up for another controversial call on the stroke of half time, with the umpire choosing to pay a free against Bomber Kyle Langford holding the ball to allow the Crows a post-siren shot at goal, which Darcy Fogarty missed.

“It makes up for the one at half time they gave the Crows,” he laughed.

Bombers coach Brad Scott had a similar view of the non-call, saying it would be unfair to focus excessively on that incident compared to others earlier in the evening.

“There are a lot of decisions [for] holding the ball, for an against, throughout the night,” he said.

“We’ll obviously focus on the one in the last couple of seconds, but I can show you a couple of others too, if you like.”

The upset win leaves the Bombers entrenched in the top eight with a 4-2 record, ahead of their traditional Anzac Day blockbuster with Collingwood.





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