MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Andrew Gaff of the West Coast Eagles arrives ahead of the AFL Tribunal hearing into his striking offence, at AFL House on August 7, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 07: Andrew Gaff of the West Coast Eagles arrives ahead of the AFL Tribunal hearing into his striking offence, at AFL House on August 7, 2018 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Graham Denholm/Getty Images)

‘I am suffering’: AFL puncher ‘shattered’

WEST Coast Eagles midfielder Andrew Gaff learned his fate for the horrific punch he delivered to the jaw of 18-year-old Fremantle youngster Andrew Brayshaw.

After lengthy cases being lodged by both sides, the jury of Wayne Henwood, David Neitz and Shane Wakelin took only 14 minutes before eventually handing Gaff an eight-week ban.

The suspension means Gaff will miss the remainder of the 2018 season and is likely to miss the opening two games of next season.

It matches the longest single-incident suspension handed down by the AFL, matching the eight-weeks given to Dean Solomon in 2008.

Gaff's ban is also the heaviest suspension for an on-field incident in the history of the West Coast Eagles.

Barry Hall initially received a 10-week ban, however thanks to an early guilty plea and the system at the time he was awarded a 25 per cent loading off the ban.

"I think eight weeks was at the bottom end of the scale from my own personal point of view," Garry Lyon said on AFL 360.

"Eight weeks including a finals series is a really substantial penalty and so it should be. It was unprecedented in recent times as to what we've seen and it's hard to watch.

"The incident was hard to watch, the fall out has been hard to watch and the tribunal just then was hard to watch too."

West Coast Eagles midfielder Andrew Gaff departs the AFL tribunal.
West Coast Eagles midfielder Andrew Gaff departs the AFL tribunal.

Usual co-host of the show and the Herald Sun's chief football writer Mark Robinson was in attendance at the tribunal, but gave his thoughts on the ruling during the show.

"I sat in on the tribunal as long as I could and I'm looking at a young man who was heavy with regret, he was really firm with his apologies and firm that it was an accident," Robinson said.

"I kept on looking at him and he was shattered. It's an emotional game footy and I felt for him, but the evidence was overwhelming.

"From the doctor, the commentary, the AFL advocate was fierce and really, really strong.

"And from Chairman Ross Howie calling punching reprehensible on the field when he came back with eight weeks I wasn't surprised."

Robinson then broke the news that Brayshaw's father, Mark, has pleaded for the football community to forgive Gaff.

"I interviewed Mark Brayshaw before the tribunal tonight and he's revealed that Angus and Andrew Gaff are going to be meeting this week to have a talk," Robinson said.

"What Mark has done as a father is call for the football community to forgive Gaff and cease the condemnation of this young man.

"He's made a mistake and he doesn't want this young man to have to wear it for the rest of his footy career and the rest of his football life."

Social media was divided on the ruling with several behind the ban and labelling it a fair assessment.

Others however believed the AFL missed a big opportunity to give Gaff an extensive ban following the incident.

The ruling not only rubs Gaff out for the remainder of the 2018 season, but he's set to become a restricted free agent at the end of the season and speculation has been rife that he's set to return to Victoria.

If he does opt to leave the West Coast Eagles, it would mean his first few games at his new club would be affected by the suspension. And would also leave a bad mark on the end of his tenure at the Eagles.

As Gaff walked out of the hearing and spoke to the awaiting media, he mentioned just how hard the past 48 hours had been for him.

"The last 48 hours has probably been the toughest couple of days of my life. People that I've spoken to and people who have seen me throughout that time know the world of pain I'm in and how much I'm suffering," Gaff said.

As the blowtorch was applied to Gaff following the incident, people weren't happy with him turning the incident and appearing to come across as the victim.

But while the world has taken aim at Gaff over the sickening incident, many have been quick to point out that nobody will be harder on him than he will be.

Port Adelaide defender Tom Jonas says the wellbeing of Gaff needs to be taken into account following the incident and people have to remember he is still human.

"It's pretty tough," Jonas told AFL.com.au.

"If you do the crime, there's going to be repercussions, but at the same time, you've probably got to take into account the mental health of the person that does it because he's still a human being.

"He'd be taking it pretty hard, as he probably should, but it will get dealt with in due course and both parties will come back from it and still be good footballers."



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