NOT since Barry Hall clocked West Coast defender Brent Staker has an assault in an AFL match attracted as much comment.
This time an Eagle is the aggressor rather than the victim, with midfielder Andrew Gaff being pilloried for punching Fremantle rival Andrew Brayshaw on Sunday afternoon.
The behind-play hit left the Docker with a broken jaw, smashed teeth and unable to eat solid food for a month.
Such is the public outrage, the Western Australian police commissioner Chris Dawson has said the incident was being examined by the force, amid calls for Gaff to be charged and face a criminal court rather than just the AFL tribunal.
“We will make an assessment on this incident as we would with other matters of public interest, and we would encourage any parties directly connected and concerned with this matter to contact WA Police Force,” Mr Dawson said.
The only VFL-AFL player charged by police over an onfield assault, Leigh Matthews, said Gaff should not face a magistrate but added the stain of the clash would remain with the Eagle.
It is not unprecedented for violence on the ground to prompt police action with three cases, two football and one soccer, having been heard in North East courts since 2001.
Chiltern footballer Paul Hodgkin was fined $7000 for three assaults in separate Ovens and King league matches in 2000.
Another player from that competition, Whorouly’s Trent Stanimirovitch received a two-month jail sentence in 2008 for knocking a Glenrowan rival unconscious.
The County Court later upheld an appeal against the prison term and Stanimirovitch walked free after the judge said he had a “bright future”.
Two years ago Wangaratta soccer player Mario Antonello was put on a bond for assaulting an Albury teen in a reserves match.
The anger from the community to Gaff demonstrates that the line between assault on the field and in day-to-day life is lessening and that all players, no matter their level, should know belting someone has consequences.