Sport AFL Apologetic Eagle Andrew Gaff in strife after punching Docker
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Apologetic Eagle Andrew Gaff in strife after punching Docker

Andrew Gaff is tackled by Fremantle's Michael Johnson and Luke Ryan in the spiteful WA derby on Sunday. Photo: AAP
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Star midfielder Andrew Gaff could miss West Coast’s entire finals campaign after breaking Andrew Brayshaw’s jaw with an unprovoked punch in Sunday’s 58-point win over Fremantle at Perth Stadium.

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.

Fremantle later tweeted that Brayshaw’s jaw had been broken.

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.

Fremantle coach Ross Lyon spoke of distressing scenes in the Dockers rooms after what he termed a ‘king-hit’ by Gaff.

“Andrew Brayshaw was king-hit 100 metres off the ball. He’s got a fractured jaw and four displaced teeth that are caved in. He’s going into surgery tonight,” Lyon told the media after the game.
“I’ve got an 18-year-old kid that I’ve seen in a real mess when I came down to the room … and his mum in tears as I walked in. It’s not very palatable.

“It’s very distressing. My senior players certainly wanted retribution and I had to stay out on the ground longer at three-quarter time to settle a couple of them down and say don’t bring yourself into disrepute.”

Gaff apologised immediately after the game.

“I feel sick. I want to apologise to Andy, I’m so sorry. It doesn’t reflect my character.”

West Coast coach Adam Simpson echoed the sentiment.

“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.”

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 its year,  even if it reaches the grand final.

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.

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.

Eagles goal sneak Liam Ryan could be in strife for a high bump on Lachie Neale.

Numerous other spot fires broke out in the second half, with the match to be remembered as the most spiteful clash between the two arch rivals since the demolition derby in Round 21, 2000.

Eagles midfielder Elliot Yeo won the Glendinning-Allan Medal as best afield for his 26-disposal, two-goal effort.

Gaff’s punch on Brayshaw overshadowed another impressive performance by the Eagles.

West Coast (14-5) is six competition points clear of third-placed Greater Western Sydney, and eight points clear of five other sides.

It takes on Port Adelaide in Adelaide on Saturday, before facing Melbourne (home) and Brisbane (away).

-AAP