West Coast star Andrew Gaff is set to miss the remainder of 2018 after copping an eight-game suspension for his sickening hit on Fremantle youngster Andrew Brayshaw.
During the third quarter of Sunday's Derby 48, Gaff struck Brayshaw with a left hook to the face which resulted in the 18-year-old immediately being taken from the ground with blood streaming from his mouth. Shortly after Brayshaw was taken to hospital before the Dockers confirmed he had suffered a broken jaw as well as three displaced teeth.
On Monday afternoon, Match Review Officer Michael Christian deemed the contact to be intentional and to the head, sending Gaff directly to the AFL Tribunal. Gaff, along with legal counsel David Grace QC, entered a guilty plea in the two-and-a-half-hour hearing at AFL House before his hefty sentence was handed down by the jury of Wayne Henwood, David Neitz and Shane Wakelin.
The shocking hit -- which has drawn many comparisons to Barry Hall's infamous punch on Brent Staker in 2008 -- has also brought into question whether or not the AFL needs to introduce a red card.
"First of all I just want to say that I'm so, so sorry to Andrew and the Brayshaw family for the pain that I've caused them over the past 48 hours," an emotional Gaff said as he left the hearing. "I respect the Brayshaw boys so much and the way they go about it. I'm really disappointed and it really hurts a lot.
"The last 48 hours have probably been the toughest couple of days of my life ... the people that I've spoken to and who have seen me in that time know the world of pain I'm in and how much I'm suffering. I see myself as a caring, gentle and measured person and that's why it's disappointing so much more.
"I'm disappointed for Andrew, I'm disappointed in myself, I'm disappointed I let my teammates down at an important time of the year and I'm disappointed I've let the supporters down as well."
With three games left in the home and away season plus a maximum of four finals to be played, it means Gaff will not return to the field this year, even if the Eagles were to reach the Grand Final. He will also face a delayed start to 2019.
The suspension -- which is the equal-longest to be handed out by the current AFL Tribunal -- now brings Gaff's future at West Coast into question with a number of Melbourne-based clubs showing interest in luring the high-profile free agent back to his home state.