The AFL Tribunal has slapped West Coast Eagle midfielder Andrew Gaff with a suspension of eight games over his ugly, horrific on-field hit on Fremantle first-year player Andrew Brayshaw that left the 18-year-old with a broken jaw.
Gaff arrived in Melbourne earlier this morning and, in wild scenes, was whisked away from the plane by airport security; exiting the plane being placed straight into a waiting car on the tarmac in order to avoid causing disruptive scenes thanks to a heaving media pack awaiting his arrival.
In fronting the tribunal, Gaff immediately pleaded guilty to the charge of intentionally striking Brayshaw during the third quarter of Sunday’s spiteful Western Derby matchup in Perth.
The off-the-ball incident resulted in Brayshaw suffering two breaks in his jaw, as well as four displaced teeth. He underwent surgery Sunday night and was subsequently ruled out for the remainder of the AFL season. He will not be able to eat solid food for four weeks.
Legal defence for Gaff, headed up by David Grace QC, argued that Gaff’s punch was intended to strike Brayshaw in the chest, but accidentally struck him in the face instead due to simultaneous downward motion by Brayshaw. The AFL’s legal head Jeff Gleeson QC rejected this defence, and requested a penalty of between 8 and 12 weeks, labelling the incident as “an historically significant event.”
The lengthy suspension ends Gaff’s season, with not enough games remaining in the year for him to return to the field, even if the Eagles qualify for this year’s AFL Grand Final. It also has the potential to impact the start of Gaff’s 2019 season, with any remaining games in his sentence to carry over to next year.
The incident has drawn widespread condemnation from fans and footy figures alike, with the suggestion being that it should draw the attention of Western Australia police for possible criminal charges.
Interestingly enough, West Coast CEO Trevor Nesbitt claimed that Gaff had played golf with Brayshaw days prior to the incident; a bizarre claim that has since been proven false.
Prior to the incident, the 26-year-old was one of the more fancied chances for this year’s Brownlow Medal.
Brayshaw has since left hospital and is reportedly recovering at home. He may yet require “extensive” further dental work and “possible implants” to fix his broken teeth.Image: Getty Images / Graham Denholm