How a send-off rule could work in the AFL

It was a sickening blow almost 100 metres off the ball that sent a young man to hospital and the AFL world into a sense of shock. Andrew Gaff, West Coast's premier midfielder and a Brownlow Medal contender, had inexplicably struck out and hit Fremantle's Andrew Brayshaw flush in the jaw.

Brayshaw -- who suffered a broken jaw and had several teeth displaced as a result of the hit, and is now out for the rest of the season -- played no further part in the game. Gaff, however, remained on the ground and played out the rest of the match, as has been allowed in the AFL since the game's inception.

But surely it is time to shun tradition and introduce a send-off rule for incidents worthy of such a punishment.

Here's how a red card system could be implemented in the AFL.

Take the guesswork out of the decision

One of the major arguments against a send-off rule is that it would expose on-field umpires to further unwanted scrutiny, and would require them to make decisions which may not be correct. Considering the Gaff strike was so far off the ball, how could umpires make an informed decision on an incident they may not have even seen clearly?

To avoid situations where a player might wrongly be sent off in a high-stakes match is simple: take it out of the umpires' hands. Much like the score review (which admittedly has its own issues), a send-off rule could come from off the field, with a person or small team either at the ground or at AFL House able to watch vision of varying angles to make informed, calm and rational decisions.

There is no need for the decision to be an immediate one, either. It can, at any time in the following minutes, be relayed to the on-field umpire, who at the next stoppage would simply send-off the player in question -- pausing for no longer than the average blood rule stoppage.

That way, the onus isn't on the on-field umpires who already have enough on their plates and who can't have eyes on every part of the field.

Use it only in extreme circumstances

The introduction of a send-off rule should not be used for minor incidents, and it's easy to argue against a red card system when the most visible and widely-criticized one in world sport is the system used in soccer.

Used for mis-timed tackles, second minor offences and other, sometimes trivial moments in play, the soccer system is occasionally flawed because referees are forced to make quick, on-the-spot decisions which in hindsight are often mistakes.

Nearly every other contact sport in the world has an ejection, or send-off rule, in place. But most are for grievous incidents, with players only rarely kicked out of games and only for major misconduct, which makes absolute sense.

These systems, though, still require on-field decisions by officials and the AFL should look to take the decision-making process off the field.

Who gets sent off?

Under this model, a send-off rule would be rarely used throughout the year. Using examples from this season, Ryan Nyhuis' tackle on Robbie Gray would not result in a send-off. Neither would a Tom Hawkins gut punch, a Taylor Walker late bump or even a Ryan Burton bump which concussed North Melbourne's Shaun Higgins.

It would instead be reserved for severe on-field indiscretions and may only have been used twice in 2018, with the Gaff incident being one and the crude hit Jeremy Cameron landed to the face of Harris Andrews being the other. An argument could be made for young Don Conor McKenna's bite on Bulldog Tory Dickson.

Had a rule been in place in 2017, Tomas Bugg would have been sent off for his whack to the jaw of Callum Mills, and Bachar Houli's hit on Jed Lamb could have ended his afternoon.

The send-off is considered in further tribunal punishment

By no means should being sent off then disqualify perpetrators from further punishment at the tribunal. Instead, the send-off may also be considered in the ruling handed down later in the week.

If an incident occurs earlier in the match, perhaps one week's suspension is taken off the tribunal's decision. However, if the incident occurs in the last quarter, perhaps the send-off has no impact on the final verdict handed down by the tribunal members on a Tuesday night.

Integrity in the overall punishment is maintained, but the player and team is also correctly hindered at the time of the incident.

While players in state and local leagues around the country -- seniors and juniors alike -- can be sent off by umpires in the case of gross misconduct, it's only in the top level where the governing body is hesitant to introduce a rule change which many would agree would benefit the sport.