Andrew Gaff’s vicious hit that floored Andrew Brayshaw on Sunday should well and truly have the AFL considering the implementation of a ‘red card’ rule.
We simply cannot have players injured in such a way.
Yes, football is a hard, physical game. It is part of the game’s appeal and players at all levels accept the inherent risk.
But we cannot accept the type of incident we saw in the Western Derby.
My sympathies are with Brayshaw.
No parent wants to see their child injured playing sport, but they accept it can happen.
What they will not accept is seeing their son or daughter knocked senseless by a cowardly blow whether it is in play or off the ball.
No player wants to have to deal with the possibility either.
As for Gaff, I am not without sympathy. Good people will do bad things.
But he simply has no case to plead.
Perhaps his fine record and the out-of-character nature of what he has done is his plea for some leniency.
— AFL.com.au (@AFLcomau) August 5, 2018
If I were sitting on the tribunal, I would accept this is a bad thing done by a good person.
But it would not save him from a penalty that will have him miss the rest of the season.
We must punish the action, but accept the apology he will undoubtedly offer. We should not crucify him.
As AFL legend Leigh Matthews said on Monday: “The guilt and shame will live with Andrew Gaff for the rest of his life.”
Will this incident introduce a red card and send off rule in the AFL? Ultimately, I do not believe it will.
There is too much focus on the AFL’s other agenda of trying to find solutions to a game they believe is not delivering free flowing or high-scoring action. They will not want to fight on another front.
But I believe the send-off rule must be considered.
There will be cries that ‘We can’t get the score review right, so how can we be sure we’d get a send-off rule right?’
One is a scoring system, which mostly provides the answer.
The other issue is about stamping out violent acts and fairness for the team who loses a player through it.
If you were watching the Gaff incident and making a send-off decision, could you answer the following?
Was it a deliberate punch? Was the recipient damaged by the blow? Could accurate medical advice be obtained quickly?
Most viewers would have been able to answer all three without too many problems.
Then it would be time for a decision on whether Gaff sits out the game – as Brayshaw obviously did.
It was interesting to note this incident occurred on a weekend where, once again, “the line in the sand game” between Hawthorn and Essendon was promoted.
On that day in 2004, both sides traded punches and blows in a bad look for footy.
I was coach of Hawthorn on that day, and it will never be a game to look back on and glorify. The sooner we forget those types of matches, the better.
I also played in the 1980s, when these types of incidents happened enough times to suggest it was being tacitly allowed and certainly not being controlled by the administration of the time.
The infamous Matthews blow, which shattered Neville Bruns’ jaw, was one such incident and it was an incident that saw Matthews face criminal charges.
The issue of criminal charges is always a possibility with assault.
It is an individual’s call, but personally I hope that we don’t have this occur in this instance.
The current-day administrators of the AFL do deserve credit for their work around providing as safe a sport as possible.
That needs to be recognised and, as a result, you can be sure Gaff will be penalised severely.
Peter Schwab played 171 VFL/AFL matches for Hawthorn from 1980 to 1991, winning three premierships. He later served as Hawthorn coach, AFL National Umpiring director, AFL Match Review Panel chairman and Brisbane Lions list manager