Coward punch: ‘People go to jail for less’
STAR midfielder Andrew Gaff is in hot water after breaking Andrew Brayshaw's jaw with an unprovoked punch in Sunday's 58-point win over Fremantle.
Gaff unleashed the off-the-ball punch with a swinging left fist in the third quarter of the 21.16 (142) to 13.6 (84) win after Brayshaw blocked his run.
Brayshaw dropped to the turf and lay there for an extended period, with blood pouring out of his mouth and his lip horribly cut.
The 18-year-old kept his mouthguard in, fearing that some of his teeth had been knocked loose by the punch, and was later taken to hospital where he underwent surgery to repair a broken jaw.
Dockers coach Ross Lyon revealed Brayshaw also had "four displaced teeth that are caved in".
"I've got an 18-year-old kid that I saw in a real mess when I came down to the rooms and his mum in tears as I was walking in," Lyon said.
"He was pretty distraught. I gave him a hug. It's hard to keep the emotion back yourself. To see his mum, it's pretty tough …
"My senior players certainly wanted retribution and I had to stay out on the ground longer at three-quarter time to settle a couple down and say, 'don't bring yourself into disrepute'."
PUSH FOR A SEVEN-WEEK BAN
The incident is set to be directed straight to the AFL tribunal, and it could attract a ban of anywhere from three to seven weeks.
Only three more rounds remain in the home-and-away season, with the Eagles on track to finish second.
It means West Coast may only have six games remaining in their year - even if they reach the grand final.
Lyon referred to Barry Hall's seven-week ban for a punch on Brent Staker in 2008 as a precedent for what the tribunal might hand down.
Melbourne's Tom Bugg copped a six-match suspension last year for striking Sydney's Callum Mills in similar fashion to Gaff's punch.
But Mills wasn't seriously hurt, and was able to play the next week. In contrast, 18-year-old Brayshaw is expected to miss the rest of the season.
CALLS FOR CRIMINAL CHARGES
Prominent West Australian lawyer Tom Percy flagged the prospect of criminal charges being laid against Gaff after what he described as a "cowardly assault".
"Andrew Gaff? What can you say?" Percy wrote on Facebook. "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."
According to the West Australian, Hawthorn legend Leigh Matthews was the most recent player to face court over an on-field incident, when he was fined $1000 and deregistered from playing for four weeks for punching a Geelong opponent in 1985.
Gaff's strike has reignited debate about whether the AFL needs a send-off rule where players who are deemed to have committed major offences are immediately removed from the field.
GAFF: 'I FEEL SICK ABOUT IT'
Gaff appeared to be crying after making his way to the bench late in the third quarter, with coach Adam Simpson coming down to comfort him. The midfielder returned to the field in the fourth quarter, and continued to be targeted by Dockers players seeking revenge.
Gaff was eventually picked off by a fierce Michael Johnson bump, leaving the Eagle dazed and confused.
Johnson, who will retire at season's end and was a late replacement for Joel Hamling, is set to come under scrutiny over the bump.
Gaff was able to play out the match, and was mobbed by his teammates after kicking a final-quarter goal in front of 57,375 fans.
He apologised for his actions after the match, saying he did the wrong thing and it made him feel sick.
"I just want to apologise to Andy," a remorseful Gaff told Fox Sports. "I feel sick. I did the wrong thing and it doesn't indicate my character. "My only thought is how Andy is and what will happen (to me) will happen."
West Coast coach Adam Simpson said the incident was out of character for Gaff. "One thing I know is that Andrew's character and who he is as a person and a player can't be questioned," Simpson said.
"As much as it is going to look as though it was intentional, I'm not really sure it was."
LAST GAME FOR EAGLES?
As well as potentially derailing West Coast's premiership campaign, Gaff also ended his chances of winning this year's Brownlow Medal, where he was among the favourites.
But it doesn't end there.
Gaff becomes a restricted free agent at season's end, meaning he may have played his last game for West Coast.
AFL great Garry Lyon believes the incident won't stop clubs lining up to secure the Victorian's signature.
"I will say, that won't scare one club off for one second because that is not him. This is just a fact. He's never been suspended before," Lyon told SEN Breakfast. "It means nothing because what he did was outrageous."
Others speculated Gaff may be more likely to stay with the Eagles in the wake of his likely suspension because it would create a desire to pay the club back.