Essendon may have been denied a pivotal after-the-siren free kick against the Swans on Friday night at the SCG.
But had this daring plan come to fruition, the Bombers could have won the game in the most creative of circumstances.
As revealed by dual premiership player David King on Fox Footy’s AFL 360, the Bombers started with just 17 players on the field at the last centre bounce against Sydney, with Aaron Francis the “bench bolter” once play had started.
Live stream the 2019 Toyota AFL Premiership Season on KAYO SPORTS. Every match of every round. Live & anytime on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14 day free trial >
Trailing by five points after Darcy Parish’s major and with ample time remaining on the clock, Essendon started with just five defenders in their defensive 50.
As soon as the ball was bounced, Francis burst on to the ground, giving the Bombers an advantage in the middle.
“This is fantastic from the Bombers,” King said.
“But it didn’t quite come off.”
MORE AFL NEWS
DEES DISASTER, DONS MYTH: BEST AND WORST INSIDE 50 KICKS REVEALED
King suggested that David Zaharakis was “aware” of the tactic, as he dragged his direct opponent towards goal.
But youngster Brayden Ham was unable to spoil the ball in the direction that would have helped the inventive play come off.
“I thought it was really great coaching and great strategy,” King said.
ON YOUR PHONE? CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
But was it legal?
The AFL has strictly been enforcing the 6-6-6 starting positions, with teams receiving warning when more than six players are in one of the thirds of the ground.
While the Bombers didn’t have that formation at the last clearance, they also didn’t have more than six players in the forward line, defensive arc or centre third.
King suggested while Essendon’s shrewd move was against the spirit of the starting positions, it technically didn’t contravene the new rule.
But it could also encourage more teams to flout with starting formations when a game is hanging in the balance.
“I don’t know if it’s fair,” King said.
“Every team will try and do it.
“It’s not 6-6-6 if you’re bringing one on from the bench.”