West Coast’s Andrew Gaff has been sent straight to the AFL tribunal, while seven more players have been sanctioned by match review officer Michael Christian following Sunday’s Western Derby.
Gaff could miss the rest of the season after his punch to Fremantle’s Andrew Brayshaw forced the youngster into emergency surgery.
The Eagles midfielder is expected to appear in person at the tribunal in Melbourne on Tuesday evening to answer a striking charge graded as intentional with severe impact to the head.
Brayshaw’s veteran teammate Michael Johnson has been fined $2000 for his bump on Gaff in retaliation.
Hayden Ballantyne and Liam Ryan can accept $1500 sanctions for starting a melee, while Daniel Venables, Jeremy McGovern, Sean Darcy and Luke Ryan can accept $1000 fines for taking part in the scuffle.
Watch the Johnson bump:
Fremantle coach Ross Lyon said he was distressed by the “king hit”, and referred to Barry Hall’s seven-week ban for a punch on Brent Staker in 2008 as a precedent for what the tribunal might hand down.
Gaff apologised for his actions after the match, saying he did the wrong thing and it made him feel sick.
But that remorse won’t save him from a lengthy ban.
Melbourne’s Tom Bugg copped a six-match suspension last year for striking Sydney’s Callum Mills in similar fashion to Gaff’s punch.
However Mills wasn’t seriously hurt and was able to play the next week, leading the match review panel to classify the incident as high impact rather than severe.
If Gaff cops a seven-week ban, it means his season will be over – even if second-placed West Coast reach the grand final.
Gaff was widely known as a fair player prior to the incident – the Eagles wingman had never been fined, let alone suspended, during his previous 174 games.
It is open to the tribunal to consider a player’s disciplinary record when settling on their punishment and it’s possible a guilty plea would lead to a reduced sanction.
Gaff becomes a restricted free agent at season’s end, meaning he may have played his last game for West Coast.
Also on Monday, West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett apologised to the Brayshaw family and to the Dockers for Gaff’s punch.
But Nisbett took issue with emotional post-match comments from Lyon as relations between the two WA clubs plummet in the wake of the Gaff-Brayshaw incident.
Nisbett also scoffed at talk that police should charge Gaff over the punch.
WA Police Commissioner Chris Dawson has confirmed the punch thrown by Gaff will be assessed.
But he also said it was rare for matters in professional sport to be dealt with by police.
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.