West Coast midfielder Andrew Gaff has been suspended for eight weeks after his punch to the face of Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw.
Gaff will miss the remainder of the season, as well as the start of the 2019 season, after Brayshaw was left with a broken jaw, three displaced teeth and a cut on the lip through to the muscle.
— AFL (@AFL) August 5, 2018
The eight-game suspension matches the ban given to Dean Solomon in 2008 as the longest AFL suspension since the turn of the century.
Gaff faced the tribunal last night in Melbourne and pleaded guilty to the charge of high contact, intentional and severe impact. AFL legal counsel Jeff Gleeson told the jury that the incident deserved a penalty of 8-12 weeks, as the action and consequences were profound.
“The strike was unrestrained in nature, ferocious in impact and grave in its consequences. It was a full-blooded punch,” Gleeson said.
Gaff’s case for a lesser suspension included multiple character references and testimony from Gaff himself that he intended to hit Brayshaw in the chest, not the head.
While the cases from both sides went for almost two hours, the jury took just 14 minutes to deliberate and hand down their verdict. Speaking after the decision, Gaff apologised to Brayshaw and his family for the incident and aftermath.
“I’m so, so sorry to Andrew and the Brayshaw family for the pain that I’ve caused them over the past 48 hours,” Gaff said.
“I’m really disappointed. I own my actions, and it really hurts a lot.”
With a formal punishment now in place, Mark Brayshaw, Andrew’s father, says that he and his family hope Gaff can be allowed to move on.
“We hope he can get through it, there has been nowhere to hide. I hope he can move forward quickly,” he said.
“It is a rotten bit of luck — and personally I am absolutely convinced he meant to give him a good whack in the chest.”
Brayshaw’s brother Angus, however, seemed less forgiving in a podcast released earlier this week. A midfielder for the Melbourne Demons, Angus labelled the incident as “assault” when discussing it on the AFL Exchange podcast.
“Imagine if this has happened at a nightclub or on the streets… I’m not a lawyer or anything like that but you could probably get in jail for something like that,” he said.
“He’s an 18-year-old kid and there’s no way that Andrew would’ve done anything and nobody can warrant to have something like that.”
Gaff may have now played his last game for the Eagles, as he will be out of contract at the end of this season. He has delayed contract talks throughout the year as rumours abound that he will return home to a Victorian club as a restricted free agent.
If the Eagles were to crash out of the finals in consecutive games, Gaff would be unable to play for any club until round four next season.