In an incident that shocked the AFL world, West Coast Eagles midfielder Andrew Gaff threw a punch that left Fremantle Dockers’ Andrew Brayshaw with a broken jaw. Besides any ramifications that there may be for Gaff, legal or otherwise, the incident leaves the team with some question marks as their season continues that they will need to address, and with some undeniable impacts coming their way.
At the top of the list of potential impacts will be how the situation will impact their locker room. Team chemistry is so important in sport, but how a team responds to the kind of negative attention they have received from this will determine how well the rest of the campaign goes. Some teams are great at rallying around one another, even in periods of self-inflicted adversity, but how well the Eagles can perform that task remains to be seen.
West Coast might be impacted at the betting window as well, as Aussie Rules betting on West Coast Eagles matches can be affected by any potential suspension or disciplinary action against Gaff. Given how the situation could be an emotional one for the team, it could be prudent to wait and see how they perform in the wake of the incident before jumping in with both feet for or against West Coast.
Gaff’s gaffe was a surprising one given his relatively clean disciplinary record prior to the situation. There is no place for what happened in sport under any circumstance, but things like what happened in the match between Fremantle and West Coast would have been a shock coming from a player who frequently has these kinds of problems. When it comes from a well-regarded player, it is hard to put the shock into words.
Worth noting is the fact that this incident has come as a shock to a sport that is notoriously physical. The game in nature is based on crunching tackles and the ability to take flight to leap onto and over opponents to catch balls that have been put into the air. So for something to be deemed too physical for the AFL says a lot about just how far out of bounds things went.
In fact, things were deemed to be so far out of bounds that Australian police may be getting involved. The police rarely get involved in disputes about things that happen in sporting events, as the governing body of each sport is usually trusted to handle discipline stemming from incidents on the field. But that is not the case here, which adds another layer of intrigue to a story that could have been avoided entirely with a measure of discretion.
Now, West Coast Eagles have to figure out how they are going to go about things without a quality player in their side potentially. And more importantly, they are going to have to figure out how to band together in spite of allegations that they are playing with some malicious intent.