The Roar
The Roar


Spoiling the spectacle: Why the AFL needs a send-off rule

Andrew Gaff of the Eagles looks dejected sitting on the bench during the round 20 AFL match between the West Coast Eagles and the Fremantle Dockers. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Roar Pro
9th August, 2018

All professional ball sports allow umpires and referees to protect players from foul play.

The sanctions are usually penalties that give the ball to the non-offending team or moving them closer to the scoring areas of the ground.

Cricket and golf are seen as non-confrontational, so do not see the necessity for harsh measures – although in the case of cricket, a confrontation between a bowler and batsman is fairly common.

Football, the rugby codes and basketball allow their officials to remove players from the field for foul play.

This acts as a deterrent, to stop teammates getting ideas about repeating the act, removes an unruly player from the game so as to stop them ruining the game with violence, and keeps spectators from acting like idiots on the sideline.

In addition, it helps with PR, as it prevents parents from making those ‘I would not let my child play such a violent game’ comments.

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As for the AFL, while the code has an extensive list of penalties, there is no send-off rule.

Andrew Gaff’s punch, which broke Andrew Brayshaw’s jaw and ruined his mouth, merited a suspension for the offender of eight weeks. But Gaff was allowed to continue to play on the day, and the game was ruined with running incidents, as the Fremantle team tried to get square.


Surely removing Gaff from the field would have reduced the square-ups and the derby could have ended up as a competitive game.

The other relevant point is that Brayshaw will be eating from a straw for four weeks and will require regular treatment on his mouth, which will last longer than the eight weeks. It therefore appears that Gaff got away relatively cheaply, while Brayshaw has not.

It’s time for a change to the rules, allowing a player to be removed if they have committed intentional foul play. What harm can it do? The tribunal is always there to review the offence and determine further penalties.