Pies awaits explanation from AFL House over controversial free kick in epic tie

Craig McRae admitted he didn’t know why Magpie Lachie Sullivan was penalized at the end of Friday night’s draw for a controversial free-kick that had the Collingwood fan base up in arms.

With 6:18 left on the clock in the fourth quarter after referee Matthew Nicholls called a ball up, Sullivan, playing in just his fourth AFL game, handed the ball to teammate Nick Daicos instead of Nicholls when he stood up.

As a result, Fremantle ruckman Sean Darcy benefited from a shot on goal from 20 meters and made no mistake, and that decision had a direct bearing on the Dockers overcoming a 25-point deficit at the start of the final period.

The rules of the game state that a player must return the ball directly to the referee, and a free kick will be awarded if a player hands the ball to another player, as Sullivan did.

But Collingwood coach McRae, speaking to reporters after the game, said he was unaware of the rule.

“I’m looking forward to what the AFL tells us about it because I didn’t know it was a free kick,” McRae said.

“But maybe it clearly is, because they don’t pay for things that don’t exist. So yeah, looking forward to seeing what they say.

“At the time, I was confused because they told me that he (Daicos) touched the referee… but again, I didn’t realize what really happened until later.

“It will be what it will be. It doesn’t help us, does it?

The Magpies finished the game with two injuries and were left standing late, giving Justin Longmuir’s men the chance to mount an improbable comeback.

Fremantle scored the last four goals of the game and had a chance to win the game in the final minute, but teammate Jeremy Sharp scored a point to tie the score at 75 apiece.

However, McRae was very proud of the effort, having crossed the Nullarbor with one of his youngest teams this year.

“It’s a lot to take in, but right now I’m very proud of our effort,” McRae explained.

“Collingwood supporters would be extremely proud of the efforts of our players, and we have some young players playing their first game and six under 10s games. “They just didn’t seem in a bad mood.”

Ruckman Mason Cox suffered a concussion and was also taken off the field with a knee injury, while Brody Mihocek did not play in the game.

The striker returned from a hamstring injury on Friday night but sat out the latter stages due to what the club described as hamstring awareness.

It was the Magpies’ second tie of the year after Anzac Day and their third overall in 2024.

The two points put Fremantle in the last 16, although that position is vulnerable to the weekend’s results.

“We might have found it too difficult, but the players found something that I’m very proud of,” Dockers coach Longmuir told reporters.

“We could have done it at the end, but the way the game went in the second half we probably stole two points.”