Gaff reaction ‘nothing short of shameful’
FORMER Hawthorn and Carlton star Daniel Harford has blasted the "shameful" treatment of Andrew Gaff in the wake of his king hit on Fremantle star Andrew Brayshaw.
Gaff received an eight-week ban at the tribunal on Tuesday night - the equal longest single-incident suspension handed down by the AFL - putting the West Coast wingman out for the rest of the season.
Brayshaw needed surgery for a broken jaw and won't be eating solids for a month.
After the tribunal hearing, a distraught Gaff said he was "suffering" and "the last 48 hours has probably been the toughest couple of days of my life" - realities Harford suggested had been overlooked by the footy community as it condemned the 26-year-old for his sickening punch, some even suggesting he should face criminal charges for assault.
Harford - who is Carlton's AFLW coach - also said the savage backlash towards Gaff has been severe enough for Brayshaw's father Mark to come out and publicly ask AFL fans to forgive the Eagles star, which was evidence the "character assassination" had gone too far.
"The coverage has been shameful in the last 48 hours from many corners of society, let alone the media," Harford said on RSN Breakfast on Wednesday.
"When it comes out that the victim's father has to come out and say, 'Can you just let this boy go and leave him alone' … I think that says a bit about the commentary and level of animosity and level of anger and emotion attached to all the commentary, as opposed to being able to sit back and dissect the situation and talk about that as opposed to character assassination on top of that.
"It's been shameful, the way it's been handled.
"It is absolutely unacceptable and with horrific outcomes, and we all understand, that but the character assassination and the way this young man has been dealt with by the media and the community - and you go to social media where it's been an absolute disgrace - has been nothing short of shameful."
Gaff was given a police escort when he touched down at Melbourne Airport ahead of his hearing, a development that infuriated plenty who failed to see why an AFL player should be given such special treatment.
"What right does Andrew Gaff, a footballer, have to get special treatment like that? I tell you what, you've got it made if you're born a footballer in this country," Channel 9's Tony Jones said on 3AW Melbourne.
Harford said the backlash after Gaff's arrival in the Victorian capital - and the fact a police escort was even necessary because of the animosity towards him - was another example of him being treated too harshly.
"That becoming a story and then becoming a privilege for AFL players and athletes that normal people don't get - I just sat there and thought, 'This is absolute madness,'" Harford said.
"The system will deal with Andrew Gaff as it did last night … but the level of alleged entitlement of people to be able to have such aggressive views towards him as opposed to the action (is wrong)."
In his post-match press conference, Fremantle coach Ross Lyon hit out at what had happened to Brayshaw, saying: "It's not very palatable … he was pretty distraught. I gave him a hug. I wouldn't like to see my son like that."
West Coast chief executive Trevor Nisbett said he was disappointed Lyon inflamed the situation with his comments, and Harford said the football world should be taking heed of one of the Dockers boss's key philosophies.
"Ross Lyon's interesting in all of this too because one of his great sayings in footy as a coach is, 'Condemn the behaviour, not the person' and when Fremantle have transgressed at any time he's talked about condemning the behaviour, look after the person, and there's been none of that with Andrew Gaff," Harford said.
But Lyon, who was understandably emotional after Sunday's incident, was far more measured when he spoke again later in the week, telling Channel 7 he voted for Gaff as the second-best player on the ground in the local derby.
"My feelings are clearly for Andrew (Brayshaw), who's a fine young player for us and an important part of our future and has been performing exceptionally well," Lyon said.
"Andrew Gaff - I gave four votes to on the weekend, second-best on the ground.
"He's a proven champion of the game. Unfortunately, he's had an incident he's been involved in and he's wearing those consequences.
"Both clubs will wrap enormous support around both young men and they'll return to play top-flight football next year.
"There's no winners here. Both young men have been through an experience and difficult time that both clubs wish they hadn't been."
Lyon also defended his post-match comments, refuting Nisbett's assertion there were any inaccuracies about them.
"It was clearly an off-the-ball incident," he said.
"At all times, I speak to my members and fans, and that was the club view of the facts, from the president, CEO, football operations manager, captain, and clearly the medical advice. It's proven to be accurate.
"(Nisbett) spoke about some inaccuracies, but I don't think it's about me. I think it's about the actions that occurred."