Police have been urged to investigate Andrew Gaff’s off-the-ball punch on Andrew Brayshaw on the same day it emerged the pair were playing golf together only last week.
The West Coast star struck Fremantle’s Brayshaw during the third quarter of Sunday’s Western Derby, leaving the teenager with a broken jaw and three displaced teeth.
And while a hefty suspension is coming Gaff’s way, lawyers have raised the possibility of criminal charges.
“The police should look at it. It is an assault,” Adelaide legal expert Alex Ward told FiveAA.
It’s got nothing to do with the game. It just happens to be a punch that occurs on an oval.
“Other than that, it is the outside world as far as I am concerned.
“By no means are you immune if you’re on the field. It doesn’t make any difference where it is.”
Ward’s comments followed a strongly worded Facebook post from Western Australian lawyer Tom Percy, who said Gaff deserved a life ban from the AFL.
“I’ve had people go to jail for less,” he added.
West Coast CEO Trevor Nisbett spoke to the media on Monday and said that Gaff, who apologised on Sunday evening, was “beside himself” with his actions.
Nisbett also revealed that Gaff played golf with Brayshaw and the Fremantle player’s brother, Hamish, who is on West Coast’s list, just last week.
“We take full responsibility for the incident, as does Gaffy. We are very apologetic to the Brayshaw family and to the club,” Nisbett said.
“It’s [an] extremely unusual circumstance. Five days ago the three of them were on the golf course together. They have a genuine friendship.
“It’s totally out of character when a player after 174 AFL games that has never been reported at any level.
“People saw the remorse he had, but it doesn’t exonerate him from the actions. He was beside himself.”
The AFL’s match review officer, Michael Christian referred Gaff’s case straight to the tribunal for Tuesday night.
Gaff will answer a striking charge that Christian assessed as being intentional and with severe impact to the head.
Before Sunday’s incident, Gaff had a spotless disciplinary record.
How is Brayshaw doing?
Fremantle released a brief update on Brayshaw’s condition on Monday morning, confirming the teenager would not play again in 2018.
“Andrew Brayshaw had surgery overnight to repair his broken jaw and three displaced lower teeth, which have been put back into place and splinted,” the Dockers said.
“Club medical staff have advised that the surgery went well and Brayshaw is now recovering at home with his parents.
“He cannot eat solid food for four weeks and will not play again this season.”
AFL rules surrounding legal action
The AFL has previously told The New Daily that “there is no restriction in an AFL player’s contract if a player wished to pursue outside legal/civil action for something that occurred on the field during a game”.
“Our game deals with on-field matters in regard to suspensions from playing, within our competition, but that action taken by our MRP [match review panel] and tribunal does not preclude any player from choosing to take any further legal action of their own outside the game,” a spokesperson said.
“The AFL takes on-field violence extremely seriously … Barry Hall’s offence for a serious behind the play strike was back in 2009, but it is referenced still because it stands out so clearly compared to our general matches.”
The spokesperson also said the AFL had introduced several initiatives to improve player safety in the past three decades.
Those initiatives included the introduction of video evidence at tribunal hearings, increased sanctions for head-high contact and altered on-field playing rules surrounding bumping.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson said police action was possible.
“We will make an assessment on this incident as we would with other matters of public interest, and we would encourage any parties directly connected and concerned with this matter to contact WA Police Force”, he told the Herald Sun.
The past example
Former AFL star Terry Wallace took legal action against Melbourne’s Rod Grinter for a 1988 punch that left him requiring around 80 stitches and surgery.
“He dislodged my top two teeth, they were knocked out at the time, fractured the mandible … I actually thought I’d bitten off my tongue because that [mandible] piece was flat on my tongue, disintegrated my bottom lip,” Wallace said on Fox Footy in 2016.
“I had to have reconstructive surgery to the face which meant plates put in. I had about 80 stitches [inside and out], had to have plastic surgery to reconstruct my bottom lip at the time, and then probably about two months after that I started suffering with vertigo.
“I used to have Stemetil injections to play out the rest of my career so it had a pretty big impact at the time.”
Wallace settled out of court with Grinter to help pay his medical bills.
Grinter said in 2016 it was “very disappointing” that Wallace pursued legal action.