AAP AFL

Stellar Gaff suffers AFL finals heartbreak

By AAP Newswire

This time last year, Andrew Gaff was sitting on the sidelines, left to think of what might have been as his teammates powered their way to premiership glory.

Twelve months later, Gaff turned in a stellar performance, but was left heartbroken once more as the Eagles fell short by 20 points in their semi-final against Geelong.

The hard-running winger was ruled out of the entire finals series after copping an eight-game suspension for the strike on Andrew Brayshaw that left the Fremantle youngster with a broken jaw.

On Friday night, with West Coast's premiership defence on the line, the man who missed out 12 months earlier made up for lost time.

In the first term, with many of his teammates seemingly shellshocked following the provisional suspension of Willie Rioli, Gaff set about doing what he does best - running.

While the Eagles stuttered their way to a 25-point deficit in the first term, Gaff was one of few players able to maintain their natural game, collecting eight first-quarter touches. As West Coast clawed their way back into the game in the second term, he racked up another eight.

But in the third quarter, he took the game by the scruff of the neck, collecting seven disposals, two clearances and slotting two goals in a stellar individual showing.

Before this game, Gaff had never kicked a goal in a final - a surprising statistic, given the winger had 68 goals in 196 games heading into Friday night's clash.

First, he slotted a classy goal on the run to bring the Eagles to within a goal.

A matter of minutes later, he drilled another from long range to put them in front - and looked set to be the hero in a gutsy fightback.

But the Cats had other ideas and Gaff's Eagles were left stunned as their opposition delivered a scintillating final term to bring the 2018 premiers' title defence to a resounding halt.

And despite a supreme 30-disposal individual effort, Gaff's night - and season - would end in heartbreak.