The Gaff incident shows the AFL’s problem with violence

Rory O'Sullivan Roar Pro

By Rory O'Sullivan, Rory O'Sullivan is a Roar Pro

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47 Have your say

    On Tuesday night the AFL tribunal handed West Coast star Andrew Gaff an eight-week suspension for his sickening hit on eighteen-year-old Andrew Brayshaw.

    The unprovoked attack was violent and difficult to watch with the victim’s injuries so severe he is unable to eat solid food for four weeks.

    Many, including Brayshaw’s father Mark, have defended Gaff, claiming the incident was out of character for an otherwise “good bloke.” Nobody has linked the incident to the broader issue the AFL has with systemic acts of violence.

    The media’s focus on the personality of Gaff has allowed the AFL to frame the incident as isolated and out of character for the game itself.

    Recent history tells a different story. Last year, Melbourne’s Tom Bugg and Richmond’s Bachar Houli received lengthy bans for sickening striking incidents that left both their victims unconscious.

    These incidents were framed as abnormal for the men, with Houli even receiving character references from Waleed Ally and Malcolm Turnbull before his tribunal appearance.

    Andrew Gaff

    Andrew Gaff of the Eagles (Photo by Will Russell/AFL Media/Getty Images)

    Let’s imagine if Gaff was playing in the NRL for the Canterbury Bulldogs. He would have been portrayed as another rugby league “thug”, indicative of the grubs who play the game.

    That isn’t to say the NRL doesn’t have a problem with violence, the romanticisation of brawls come Origin time is enough proof of that, but the incidents of violence in the AFL have been just as bad, if not worse, than the NRL over the last few years.

    The first step in addressing any problem is recognition. The culture surrounding the AFL celebrates tough men who hit hard, with niggles between opponents an accepted part of the game.

    If the AFL is serious about ensuring there is no repeat of the weekend’s events, they must openly admit that the culture of the sport promotes and naturalises violence. Focusing on the character of the perpetrator and avoiding the link to broader problems the game has with violence only delays the inevitability of more sickening acts occurring in the future.

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    The Crowd Says (47)

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2018 @ 3:43am
      AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2018 @ 3:43am | ! Report

      I’ve been as aghast at anyone after Sunday’s incident, and was advocating as much as the next person for a large penalty for Gaff. But let’s face it – the AFL has many problems. Any supposed, regularly occurring violence on the field ain’t one of them.

      Yes, the League’s had some particularly bad occurrences of this ilk of late. And yes, there’s been a helluva lot of conjecture surrounding these incidents – rightly so, of course. But I’d dispute the argument that the “AFL has a problem with violence”, because I don’t believe it does. I don’t believe that four or so incidents of a terrible nature in my living memory (Houli, Gaff, Bugg and Hall) mean there’s an endemic problem throughout the wider league – on the field.

      Arguably, there’s a much larger problem in the crowds these days. I’ve been a row away from two men – both supporting the same goddamn team – throwing punches at each other in the view of their own families, at Adelaide Oval. We’ve seen the brawls at stadiums this year. No doubt there’s plenty of other occurrences of fan violence that don’t make the nightly news or the morning columns. An attitude of an intense live sport, excessive alcohol and the general demeanour of the Australian person causes this.

      Actually, it’s the latter two that are really impactful. Any given Saturday at the footy is a microcosm of the wider Australian community. There’s a lot of alcohol, a lot of people trying to support their team, a lot of passion. And whilst that usually mixes pretty well, there’s a lot of insanity when it goes wrong. And I don’t think that’s the fault of the league at all.

      Obviously, though, incidents like Gaff’s don’t help, and whilst we’re yet to see a weekend of footy since, it could add fuel to the fire of one or two or fifty bravados who’ll go to the footy this weekend, drink a beer or seven and find some bloke who they disagree with.

      • August 9th 2018 @ 9:18pm
        Kangas said | August 9th 2018 @ 9:18pm | ! Report

        You’re correct Docker

        Way too much violence in the crowds.

      • August 9th 2018 @ 9:19pm
        Kangas said | August 9th 2018 @ 9:19pm | ! Report

        As a victim of an off the ball Aussie rules coward punch and a trip to hospital only last year . I can vouch for the truth in this story

        • August 10th 2018 @ 9:57pm
          Laurence King said | August 10th 2018 @ 9:57pm | ! Report

          If this had happened in the street, there would be no talk of it just being a mistake, just a part of the game, feeling sorry for the young man so let’s forgive him. No, there would be a charge, it would be called out as a Coward punch and an act of complete bastardry. You do something as blatant as this in a game, you should be charged. See how quickly the behaviour stops.

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2018 @ 3:48am
      AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2018 @ 3:48am | ! Report

      Also, I just want to add, there’s a perception that the footy needs to be brash and violent and full of big hits to be entertaining. Sure, a bit of spice adds a lot to the game, but when you’ve got stuff like the fourth quarter of Sunday’s derby, it’s going far too far.

      I understand my team were frustrated, and wanted vengeance (for lack of a better word) – and I suppose that’s a normal part of the game, sure. But to have the commentators, including Anthony Hudson, who I usually really like, cry out in apparent happiness that the “derbies of old are back!” in the midst of the bravado on the field – well, that’s a fairly amateurish and inane way to describe what were quickly becoming uncomfortably intense on-field scenes.

      I get it, footy of old was brash and audacious, but surely there’s a line.

    • August 9th 2018 @ 6:48am
      Shane said | August 9th 2018 @ 6:48am | ! Report

      I call bull.

      You can be a Monday expert to push your barrow after these extremely rare incidents if you like, and cherry pick scenarios that support your argument.

      Me, I remember when all the journos were beating up Bernie Vince for his show of friendship with Dangerfield. Which way do you want it?

      These sorts of click bait reactionary stories are a bigger problem, in my opinion, than imaginary violence in a game that is almost always played in an honest, courageous way.

      • August 10th 2018 @ 12:15am
        Floyd Calhoun said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:15am | ! Report

        I call bull too. I also question Rory O’Sullivan’s knowledge of the game & it’s history re violent incidents. He clearly has no idea.

    • August 9th 2018 @ 12:56pm
      Tom said | August 9th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

      To be fair, at least the AFL handed out a solid suspension, as opposed to the pathetic 2 weeks the NRL handed out to Curtis Scott for assaulting Dylan Walker.

    • Roar Pro

      August 9th 2018 @ 1:17pm
      anon said | August 9th 2018 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

      These kind of assaults have been accepted in our society. It’s sick.

      Put it this way, you do that in other countries you cause a riot much like we saw in the Filipino basketball game.

      People find a way to sort out issues themselves and deliver justice.

      Here we’re so weak and so accepting of violence that not even 24 hours after the violent unprovoked assault most people are as concerned with the attacker’s feelings and image as what the victim will have to live with.

      In fact, most of the coverage has been concerned about Gaff and the snowflake’s feelings.

      • Roar Rookie

        August 9th 2018 @ 4:49pm
        Mattician6x6 said | August 9th 2018 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

        It’s twisted ppl are questioning the honest, considered and heartfelt reflections of Mark Brayshaw.
        On Sunday when queried I said if my son played footy I’d be accepting that something untoward may happen, I was subsequently decried that I was one of those parents.
        After listening to mark brayshaw recount he told Gaffs parents please don’t worry, these things happen I was somewhat happy my views are aligned to the father of the victim and not the rabble which has formed.

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2018 @ 5:11pm
          AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2018 @ 5:11pm | ! Report

          I was more frustrated that you were able to excuse a punch like that as something that might happen, because it’s not a natural part of football. It just isn’t, from my perspective.

          All power to Mark though – he’s obviously a more fair parent than most. Also remember that I was speaking from the point of view of a frustrated fan, which obviously would’ve coloured my view. I’m not holding any of this against you by the way, just though you had some peculiar views!

          • Roar Rookie

            August 9th 2018 @ 5:37pm
            Mattician6x6 said | August 9th 2018 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

            I didn’t excuse what happened, my view was and still is I will never hold my children back from experience due to risk.
            I didn’t condone the punch that was what you assumed, context was added to suit your need.

            • Roar Pro

              August 9th 2018 @ 8:59pm
              anon said | August 9th 2018 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

              You’ve been making excuses for Gaff since Sunday.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 2:05am
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 2:05am | ! Report

                Having the emotional maturity and empathy as to not engage in hysteria nor woman’s Day like character assassination is not making excuses it’s being measured 😊

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 10:15am
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 10:15am | ! Report

                Showing empathy to the person but not excusing a single action wasn’t making excuses, it’s being measured and considered.

              • Roar Pro

                August 10th 2018 @ 12:38pm
                anon said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

                So people were wrong to be upset with the Filipino basketballers?

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 12:51pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

                I wasn’t, it barely passed my radar as I’m not a basketball fan. From what I saw or read both sides where bozo like.

              • Roar Pro

                August 10th 2018 @ 1:21pm
                anon said | August 10th 2018 @ 1:21pm | ! Report

                Australia was outraged by the FIlipino basketballers who were somewhat provoked by a an Aussie player dropping the shoulder. They wanted the Filipinos thrown out of international basketball and the players facing criminal charges.

                For barely grazing or scratching any of our players. It was an abhorrent attack, but no real injuries.

                Gaff at the very least committed Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm and did so with no provocation.

                One rule for Aussies who went to the right schools and another for Filipinos (or the mugs in the stands).

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 3:55pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

                I find it odd you’ve jumped from right wing conservative thinking to a more left socially aware stand all within a few short sentences.

              • Roar Pro

                August 10th 2018 @ 4:55pm
                anon said | August 10th 2018 @ 4:55pm | ! Report

                Nothing conflicted about my view.

                My view is consistent.

                You don’t get a green light to brutally one-punch assault someone because you are on a footy field.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 5:50pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

                Who is saying it is a greenlight?
                There is a governing body that has passed judgement and handed punishment down.
                The if it was on the street it’s assault etc etc you’ve loved has missed a very simple point t, ALL suspendable incidents that happen in the afl would equate to assault on the street, so it with all your consitency is nothing more than a ill considered view.
                All other of your arguments to back up your pov are easily rebuked whether by myself or others.

          • August 9th 2018 @ 11:10pm
            asd said | August 9th 2018 @ 11:10pm | ! Report

            thugs hit

        • Roar Guru

          August 10th 2018 @ 12:32am
          Dalgety Carrington said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:32am | ! Report

          Why do I get the feeling that this has become more about you for you than it has about the Brayshaws or Gaff? If you happen to be wandering past any lakes, don’t gaze too long at your reflection there, you might not be able to pull free.

          • Roar Rookie

            August 10th 2018 @ 12:44am
            Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:44am | ! Report

            Love you dal, you keep trying and that is commendable .
            If you manage at some stage to say something correct I’ll reserve the Flinstone phone for you so playtime will be an even bigger highlight ok Winky Winky.

        • August 10th 2018 @ 11:56am
          Jon Boy said | August 10th 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

          Matti -Your views are not aligned to the father of the victim at all, his views would be the same as his other son Angus and the large 99% of people on this site. Mark was just defusing a nasty situation plus his other son is on the WCE list. You and Nisbett have not excepted the penalty (although pretending to) If it was a player from another club you would not be calling for 3-5 weeks (your original statement ) You playing the Mark Brayshaw card is appalling .

          • Roar Rookie

            August 10th 2018 @ 12:45pm
            Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

            Thanks Jon boy it’s nice for you to clarify what my beliefs are as I’m unaware.
            It is also really poor you think you can speak on behalf of mark brayshaw and are not aware civilized mature people will have understanding, empathy and considered views instead of vengeful hate.

            • Roar Rookie

              August 10th 2018 @ 12:54pm
              Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 12:54pm | ! Report

              3-5 weeks, well to clarify if roles where reversed I’d be happy if brayshaw got 3-5 as his age, character and remorse should be taken into account.

              • August 10th 2018 @ 1:50pm
                Jon Boy said | August 10th 2018 @ 1:50pm | ! Report

                Your missing the point Matti, Gaff’s age ,character and remorse Was taken into account……..That is why he got 8 not 10-12 weeks which was deserved . This incident was clearly worse than Hall or Bugg. Only you Grace and Nisbitt reckon it was 3-5 that being a biased opinion and no respect for Brayshaw. Mark said himself 8 was a fair call, i am sure he would not have been happy with your biased 3-5.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 3:52pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 3:52pm | ! Report

                The point you made was I was appalling for viewing it all with thought and consideration.
                You’ve obviously missed after the ruling that I’ve been accepting of the result.
                You’ve also failed to understand that like mark and Andrew I believe this is a situation where a decent young gentleman has made an awful error of judgement and is not deserved of the empty vitriol that has been spewed, this is understanding and empathy.
                Jon I’m ok to be the target of the small minded on here it’s not something I’ll lose sleep over but whether it’s you or someone else ranting hatred I’ll respond as forgiveness and understanding is and always will be right.

              • August 10th 2018 @ 7:28pm
                Jon Boy said | August 10th 2018 @ 7:28pm | ! Report

                i have followed this story all week with very little input, i have not ranted hate, or read next to none, lots of opinions i think Matti you are a little over awed with Gaff . If a senior Freo player did this act on a young Eagle you would have a far different take on the issue. You say you have excepted the 8 week penalty but you really have not.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 10:30pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 10:30pm | ! Report

                I’ve seen it Jon, we’ve all seen a young wce attacked by a senior Freo player, Dale kickett was 32 and Phil read was 20, oh but that was a great line in the sand moment wasn’t it.
                I empathize with brayshaw and gaff and if it happened to a wce player I would understand that it doesn’t have any need for me to be making silly statements as ultimately I have no personal connection beyond I support the team for fun on a Winter’s weekend.
                You are not connected to the brayshaws nor are any on here voicing toxic opinion (hate) so to burden yourself with outrage and funnel it through der brain comments is baffling.
                I honestly don’t have a clue if you are who you claim or one of a collection of online personas so your quiet viewing can be brought into question though I will for this moment offer benefit of doubt.

              • Roar Guru

                August 10th 2018 @ 4:06pm
                AdelaideDocker said | August 10th 2018 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

                I can’t fault your level of level-headedness lately, Matt. Been good to see when some fans (of both teams) have been a little aggrieved over the past week. Me included.

                And, yup, even I am of the thinking that both sides of this debate should be moving on. It’s Friday, and there’s a weekend of footy ahead!

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 4:27pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

                Life’s to short to be angered hey mate, hope you are enjoying the beginning of your year away, will be a wonderful experience.

              • Roar Pro

                August 10th 2018 @ 6:09pm
                anon said | August 10th 2018 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

                I just have higher standards than you.

                That’s all.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 10:54pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 10:54pm | ! Report

                Well when you get off the cross I’ll be interested in what that vista was like anon.

              • August 10th 2018 @ 6:19pm
                Downsey said | August 10th 2018 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

                6×6 hasn’t been level-headed.

                Gaff’s act is simply indefensible, so he’s accepted that, but he’s been relentlessly combative with most people expressing differing opinions to his own on other elements of the situation.

                I do agree though that it’s time to move on.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 7:07pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 7:07pm | ! Report

                I have a way of expressing myself which passing judgement on is not your place. Last time we conversed it was regarding fact the outrage was misguided especially as we all cheer on acts of violence of varying degrees and ppl should consider that before being pious. Measured most definetely. I defended gaff? well I defended his intention and I continue being comfortable with his intention was never to cause the damage he did, which as far as I can tell is accepted by Andrew brayshaw.

              • August 10th 2018 @ 8:04pm
                Downsey said | August 10th 2018 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

                You can’t defend the act, so you’re viciously defending the next best thing – intention – to have your boy’s back. Unfortunately, it reads more like acting out. Coincidentally, just like the WC crowd during the game.

                Since when has someone’s ‘place’ stopped commentators passing judgement on each other on this site?! It’s rife here! (It’s just worded more intelligently and with correct written expression compared to social media or msm sites.)

                Anyway, the dishes are calling. Must get back to the kitchen!

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 8:36pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

                Why would I defend the act? You can’t defend it, defending his intentions as ppl where using statements that where misguided well I’d do that for any person, it’s a trait known as compassion.
                But your next lines showed me the issue at the heart, I’m a evil wce supporter *sigh* so simple.
                Enjoy your dishes as I will enjoy my buttery Chardonnay and continue supporting my dog act players

              • August 10th 2018 @ 8:49pm
                Downsey said | August 10th 2018 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

                *cin cin*

                Until next derby when hopefully we’re back to the less antagonistic and more enjoyable repartee between cross-town rivals.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 10th 2018 @ 9:24pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 10th 2018 @ 9:24pm | ! Report

                French hey ou la la, have an enjoyable weekend.

              • Roar Pro

                August 11th 2018 @ 2:51am
                anon said | August 11th 2018 @ 2:51am | ! Report

                There are people in this world with real problems that they didn’t create. Real victims. People with no money, no status, no hope. I save my compassion for those people.

                Not some multi-millionarie football player from a $30k per year high school who committed a brutal one-punch assault that left the victim with gruesome head injuries.

                Like I said, I have higher standards than most people. You have to earn my respect. You’ll never catch me fawning and groveling to a one-punch thug, much like the Brayshaws and the ex-footy player mafia have been doing this week.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 11th 2018 @ 9:46am
                Mattician6x6 said | August 11th 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

                And that little self serving summary, in addition with your many spiteful comments over other horrible situations that have been in some way sports related , we’ll anon you’ve got alot of growing up to do.

              • Roar Pro

                August 11th 2018 @ 1:34pm
                anon said | August 11th 2018 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

                All you can focus on is the perpetrator of the vicious one punch attack.

                All you want to do is excuse and diminish his actions.

                Have a look at yourself.

              • Roar Rookie

                August 11th 2018 @ 2:40pm
                Mattician6x6 said | August 11th 2018 @ 2:40pm | ! Report

                I looked at myself this morning and was content just to answer your query.
                In time you will learn the meaning of turn the other cheek and he who is without sin.
                As I said before you have alot of growing and maturing to do

              • Roar Pro

                August 12th 2018 @ 12:49pm
                anon said | August 12th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

                I’m not a violent person.

                I really look down on that kind of unprovoked violence.

                He’d be in custody or out on bail if he did that on the street.

                Good blokes don’t commit unprovoked one punch assaults.

                Like I said, I have higher standards.

    • August 9th 2018 @ 11:08pm
      asd said | August 9th 2018 @ 11:08pm | ! Report

      That was thugs punch should get a huge fine like 30% year pay deducted

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