Essendon fans are furious after a referee decision in the Nail Biter’s final moments sparked heated debate among AFL pundits

AFL: Essendon’s Zach Merrett was at the end of a bump from Swan Nick Blakey in the first half at SCG, but Tom Morris believes he will escape suspension

Sydney Swans’ thrilling three-point win over the Essendon Bombers on Thursday night was marred by a late referee controversy

In the fourth round there was a hard-fought arm wrestling in the second half, which reached a climax at the SCG

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Sydney was three points ahead of less than a minute when Tom Hickey caught a border throw near Essendon’s defensive 50s

The Swans ruckman took a few steps to play handball before being attacked by Bomber’s young gun Nik Cox, but the umpires believed Hickey had no previous chance and carried on with a ball-up

Several AFL fans voiced their frustration on social media, arguing that Essendon should have received a free kick for Hickey running a few meters before his attack

Removing it from the backpack is irrelevant for a previous opportunity But Hickey goes to handball and then pulls him back in That is certainly before But it’s that easy in slow motion 28 shots on 20 Sydney deserved the win in the end https: / / tco / 0JODAbd0EZ

Had to be a free kick at this limit. Hickey snatched the ball out of his backpack, was tackled, and not disposed of The silence of confirmation? #AFLSwansDons

Tom Hickey off the hook and not discarding it ?! Gosh, someone, please explain this to me

AFL reporter Tom Morris spoke of Fox Footy’s first crack, arguing, “I think it holds the ball

“If you get tackled right away, fair enough. But he takes it out of the rough, takes a few steps, and had a chance to play handball”

Three-time All-Australian Gerard Healy disagreed: “I always thought you should reward the ball winner

“For me it was a step and a half, it was approached pretty straight away. I would have said keep playing”

The great Leigh Montagna from St Kilda stated, “We don’t want to reward the tacklers. We don’t want to reward the negative play”

Essendon coach Ben Rutten spoke to reporters after the game and said he hadn’t seen the incident

The decision would have gone unnoticed if it had been made early in the game, but every moment in the closing passages of a thriller is inevitably scrutinized

Regardless of this, the undefeated swans secured a fourth win in a row to assert themselves as real finalists

Sydney is the fifth team since 2017 to win the first four games of the season – the other four have all qualified for the pre-finals

The Swans will take a nine-day break before going on Saturday the 17th April, compete against the GWS Giants at SCG

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Sydney versus Essendon, Sydney Swans, Essendon, Lance Franklin, Swans

World news – AU – AFL thriller “ruined” by controversial appeal