WEST Coast midfielder Andrew Gaff has been hit with an eight-game ban by the AFL tribunal for his punch on Andrew Brayshaw during Sunday’s Western Derby.
The ban ends Gaff’s season, which up until Sunday had been the 26-year-old’s best in the AFL.
Gaff struck Brayshaw during the third quarter of the match, leaving the 18-year-old Docker bleeding from the mouth with a broken jaw and three displaced teeth.
He can’t eat solid food for a month and it will be some weeks before it is known whether he will lose the teeth.
Gaff apologised to Brayshaw and his family outside of the tribunal tonight and said he was disappointed in his actions.
“The last 48 hours have probably been the toughest of my life,” he said.
“The people that I’ve spoken to and the people who have seen me throughout that time know the world of pain I’m in and how much I’m suffering.
“I see myself as a caring, gentle and measured person, that’s why it’s disappointing.
“I’m disappointed, I’m disappointed for Andrew, I’m disappointed I’ve let my supporters down as well.
“I just want to apologise to Andrew and hope he gets better soon.”
During the tribunal hearing in Melbourne on Tuesday evening, Gaff contended he meant to strike Brayshaw in the chest rather than the chin.
“I meant to get him in the chest,” Gaff said.
“I feel sick that I got him in the face. I had no intention to hit him where I hit him.
“I tried to do a similar hit to what I did 10 seconds earlier with my right arm.
“Once I saw him lying on the ground, I instantly felt sick.
“Mentally, I didn’t want to keep playing.
“Physically, I was able to keep playing. But mentally, I felt shattered.”
Gaff received character references from former Carey Grammar principal Phil De Young, former AFL Victoria talent program manager Anton Grbac as well as a host of football colleagues including John Worsfold, Adam Simpson and Dean Cox.
The AFL’s legal counsel Jeff Gleeson described the punch as a “historically significant event”.
“The strike was unrestrained in his execution, ferocious in its impact and grave in its consequences,” Gleeson said.
“It was a full-blooded punch.
“Good people do bad things.
“It doesn’t make them bad people.
“But the jury’s responsibility is to punish the act, not just the person, and the act is very bad.”
THE AFL TRIBUNAL’S HEAVIEST RECENT SUSPENSIONS
* JEREMY CAMERON – five games in 2018
Brisbane key defender Harris Andrews was hospitalised with bleeding on his brain after being floored by a swinging forearm from GWS forward Cameron. It was Cameron’s second direct referral to the tribunal – he also copped a four-game ban in 2016 for a bump that left Brisbane’s Rhys Mathieson with a fractured cheekbone.
* TOM BUGG – six games, 2017
A hefty ban was inevitable when Melbourne tagger Bugg dropped Sydney’s Callum Mills to the turf with an intentional left hook. Mills’ teammates labelled the incident a “dog act” and Bugg has since managed just three games for the Demons.
* BACHAR HOULI – four games, 2017
History was made when the AFL appealed against the two-game ban handed by the tribunal to Richmond defender Houli for striking Carlton’s Jed Lamb. The Tigers submitted character references from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and media personality Waleed Aly but the AFL Appeals Board took just 10 minutes to double the ban.
* TOM JONAS – six games, 2016
Ironically, it was West Coast’s Andrew Gaff on the receiving end of this brutal high bump from Port Adelaide backman Jonas. The hit received the most serious classification – intentional conduct, severe impact and high contact – and Jonas’ attempt to have the charge downgraded cost him any chance of a discount.
* STEVEN BAKER – nine games (total), 2010
St Kilda’s serial offender pleaded guilty to three charges of striking Geelong’s Steve Johnson and lost an appeal against a fourth charge of misconduct for hitting Johnson’s broken hand in the same game. Baker also copped a seven-game ban for knocking out Fremantle forward Jeff Farmer behind the play in 2007.
* DEAN SOLOMON – eight games, 2008
The Fremantle utility caught Cameron Ling flush with a menacing elbow after the Geelong tagger had dished off a handball. Ling suffered a compressed fracture of the cheekbone and Solomon copped the most severe tribunal penalty in more than a decade.
* BARRY HALL – seven games, 2008
Sydney premiership player Hall will forever be remembered for the sickening left hook that felled West Coast defender Brent Staker. Staker was knocked out before he hit the ground and Hall later admitted he feared the violent blow could have killed his opponent.