News National The Andrew Gaff overreaction is as sickening as the punch

The Andrew Gaff overreaction is as sickening as the punch

A punch given way too much attention? Andrew Gaff badly injures Andrew Brayshaw on August 5.
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I’ve read literally thousands of words this week about the Andrew Gaff punch, seen the vision literally dozens of times, talked about it with my husband after work.

On the TV, men have gathered around tables to dissect it and the resulting eight-week suspension over and over on football shows. It dominated news headlines for days.

What happened to Andrew Brayshaw is disgusting, but it’s such a contrast when a bloke is hurt doing his job – playing a game in which violence is part of its intrinsic appeal – and gets mass national attention, yet women are bashed and killed every day and it routinely merits a mere couple of paragraphs.

Do we care more when violence happens to a man? Or when it happens in a workplace? 

Does it make it worse when a man gets injured on the clock, instead of a woman getting shot, stabbed, burned, mutilated, humiliated or tortured in her home?

Fabiana Palhares was bludgeoned to death with an axe by her partner in 2015 – while pregnant.

There are retrospective shows dedicated to showing old footy brawls. Ronnie Andrews and Robbie Muir, those doughty old war horses, are chuckled about in pubs by men toasting their front-foot exploits. People love them.

Barry Hall. Leigh Matthews. Lines in the sand, dads calling from weekend couches with a weird kind of awe when old stuff comes on TV: ‘Son, have you seen this? Nearly killed the bloke. You’ve got to see it.’ 

It was hard to watch 18-year-old Brayshaw holding his bleeding, broken face in confusion and agony after Gaff hit him, hard to watch him being shepherded down the race and into a couple of months of rehab.

Hard too, to read about how shattered his mother was when she made her way to his side. It’s a particular pain, seeing a child – even one who is technically a grown man making his way in a supremely physical industry that offers debutants no better protection than a mouthguard – really hurt.

Between them, my three athletic children have had 19 surgeries. There has been the odd tonsillectomy and appendectomy but most of them were broken bits, from the collar to the shoulder, to the arm and leg.

Joy Rowley was strangled to death by a former partner in 2011.

I’ve seen my daughter skittled on hard roller derby rinks by determined women twice her size travelling at speed, wobbling to her feet with a wrist clutched to her chest, face grey.

Seen glinting bones sticking out of skin. Seen one son and his father carry their brother and child, leg smashed, from a winter rugby field when there wasn’t even a first aid kit waiting, just a teacher with a phone and palpable sense of panic. 

But that’s sport. Things happen. People get hurt, often unfairly and off the ball. Especially in professional contact sports like AFL, when there’s money and finals berths at stakes. It’s a strange thing when a game is built around relishing hard men. But when players are hurt, the reaction is extreme.

When Phillip Island mother Samantha Fraser was killed at home in July, why weren’t there whole TV shows dedicated to her death? She died. She didn’t just get a broken jaw. She died. Her kids have no mother anymore. Because she’s dead.

samantha fraser
Samantha Fraser was found dead inside her garage earlier this year. Her estranged husband has been charged with murder.

In 2017, when a 27-year-old Broadmeadows woman was cut into pieces in front of her children, her eyes gouged out while she was alive and her fingers cut off and shoved inside her, why weren’t TV shows dedicated to what should happen to the perpetrator? She died in the most hideous way. She isn’t alive anymore.

But nope. No panels of experts weighing in on what punishment was suitable, no thousands of newspaper columns saying the same thing. Not much sympathy, but then the one or two women killed every week in Australia aren’t alive to get the sympathy, and it’s not like their deaths are part of a multi-million-dollar industry.

This week showed how we respond when one man gets hurt in the workplace.

Cue an explosion of moral outrage and calls for his attacker to be jailed.

Cue claims that Gaff should get out of Perth for his own safety (followed by the inevitable ‘But we know he’s a good bloke’ qualifications just in case his public caning has affected his mental health).

Men, imagine if it was you being killed every week by women.

Imagine if we were stronger and meaner than you, and filled with vengeful thoughts and hate over money and child custody and because you didn’t look good enough or you looked too good, or whatever else was getting our goat.

Imagine if, literally, one of you was being picked off every couple of days by a woman.

And then a couple of tributes were written, a couple of tongues were clicked in sympathy, then you were forgotten because women were busy watching footage of an unseemly one punch at netball that ended in a dislocated jaw.

Wouldn’t be great, would it? Almost lacking in perspective.

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