June 23, 2024

The AFL has acknowledged that an umpire error occurred when Essendon ruckman Sam Draper dived on the ball in the closing moments of Friday night’s intense match, failing to award a free kick to Adelaide.

Despite the controversy, the Bombers clinched a crucial three-point victory over the struggling Crows, securing a 4-2 record while Adelaide fell to 1-5.

Draper’s action, where he dived on the ball inside Adelaide’s forward 50 and was subsequently tackled by Crows players, went unpunished by the umpires. The decision not to award a free kick against Draper, despite him having possession of the ball on the ground, raised questions.

Sam Draper | AFL

“In the moment and from the umpires’ perspective on the field, it was believed that Draper had dived on the ball, and subsequently, the ball was seen to emerge to Draper’s left before being knocked back under him by (Taylor) Walker,” explained an AFL spokesperson on Saturday.

“After reviewing the incident with the assistance of broadcast angles and Hawkeye vision from behind the goals, it becomes evident that the ball initially moves from under Draper’s chest to under his armpit/shoulder, indicating that he still had possession and had not immediately knocked it clear. Therefore, technically, it should have resulted in a Holding the Ball free kick.”

The AFL acknowledged that the decision posed a significant challenge for the umpires, especially considering the congestion of players inside Adelaide’s forward 50.

Adelaide coach Matthew Nicks declined to comment on the decision when questioned about it after the game.

This incident marks the second time in their last four games at the Adelaide Oval that the Crows have felt aggrieved by umpiring decisions. In round 23 of the previous season, Ben Keays believed he had scored a goal to put Adelaide ahead against Sydney, only for the umpire to rule that the shot had hit the post. However, replays later revealed that the ball had not made contact with the post, and Keays should have been awarded a goal.

Adelaide were hard done by in their three-point loss to Essendon, the AFL has acknowledged. (Joel Carrett/AAP PHOTOS)


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