West Coast Eagles midfielder Andrew Gaff could face more than just the wrath of the AFL Tribunal over his cowardly, incredibly shitful hit on 18-year-old Fremantle player Andrew Brayshaw in yesterday’s spiteful clash in Perth.

The punch, behind play and very much off the ball, left first-year-player Brayshaw prone on the ground for quite some time as blood poured from his mouth. He was later transported to hospital where it was discovered the single punch left him with with two breaks in his jaw bone as well as several caved in teeth. Brayshaw had even gone so far as to keep his mouthguard in as he left the field, fearing it was the only thing keeping several of his upper teeth from completely falling out.

There are now calls for Gaff to face criminal charges over the hit, with prominent football figures suggesting police almost have to scrutinise the incident.

Prominent lawyer, QC, and board member for WAFL side East Perth Tom Percy commented on the incident on Facebook, calling Gaff’s punch a “cowardly assault” and suggesting that Gaff didn’t deserve to play AFL ever again.

Andrew Gaff? What can you say? He doesn’t deserve to play AFL again. Ever. (There is) a prima facie case for a police investigation. I’ve had people go to jail for less.

Why would a football score be more important than the health and wellbeing of an innocent young man who is in hospital as a result of a cowardly assault he didn’t provoke.

There is precedent for players from top-level football to face criminal charges over on-field incidents. In 1985, Hall of Famer Leigh Matthews was the last notable player to be formally charged by police after he punched a Geelong opponent during a game. For that incident, Matthews was fined $1,000 and deregistered from playing for four weeks. But in the AFL era (aka since 1990) no player has faced criminal scrutiny for on-field assaults.

In lower level football, however, it’s slightly more common. Notable, former AFL diversity officer Ali Fahour resigned from his position last year after being charged with assault for punching an opponent in a lower division game. He escaped criminal conviction, but was fined $5,000.

The Gaff incident is an appalling example of football at its absolute worst, and a shining, glaring example of the mystifying leniency afforded to men committing violent acts while coincidentally wearing football colours.

Brayshaw already underwent surgery to repair his jaw fractures, and will now miss the remainder of the AFL season while he recovers. He will be unable to even eat solid food for four weeks.

Gaff, meanwhile, faces a lengthy suspension over the hit, with some suggesting he could be suspended for as much as 7 weeks. A 6 week suspension would completely rule him out for the remainder of the year, even if the Eagles wind up making this year’s Grand Final.

Gaff’s tribunal hearing is likely to be held tomorrow night.

Source: The West Australian
Image: Getty Images / Paul Kane