By Sam Landsberger
Andrew Gaff strutted into Marvel Stadium with a grey blazer covering a plain white t-shirt and would’ve worn a smile as he left on Friday night.
There was a pink ball, flashing goal posts and a rectangular field but Gaff was back … and $5000 richer for the fun of it.
It was the exact same trim, fit and polished footballer the AFL world admired up until that punch on Andrew Brayshaw in Round 20 last year.
Gaff missed out on West Coast’s premiership and missed another Grand Final last night as his AFLX ‘Bolts’ were knocked out early.
Sadly, league promoters also missed a trick by not including any of the Brayshaw brothers to line up either with or against Gaff.
We’ll have to wait until Round 4 for Gaff’s return date against Fremantle in a derby week he is certain to dominate the headlines.
But imagine Brownlow Medal place-getter Angus Brayshaw and Gaff running full bore for the same ball.
It would’ve brought forward some of the intrigue bubbling on from one of the stories of 2018 and injected some much-needed hype into Friday night’s weird experiment.
But for Gaff to run around in a semi-competitive game for the first time in 201 days on Friday night would’ve been soothing for both his mind and his bank account.
And Gaff was spared the unsavoury boos that were angrily shouted at him in Round 20 last year and are certain to be repeated when he returns to the AFL in seven weeks’ time.
Gaff – who is also eligible to plat JLT pre-season series – is set to slot back in against Collingwood in the Grand Final rematch at the MCG before that Dockers derby.
Friday night’s hectic running patterns would’ve saddened Kangas fans.
Gaff was playing at North Melbourne’s home ground and in the club’s royal blue colour and the club came agonisingly close to pinching his signature last year.
Gaff’s first two kicks sprayed through for behinds but he then got into his groove.
Gaff charged forward and snapped a goal to bring his team back within 17 points in the first game and then attempted a wild torpedo after the final siren.
Minutes later, Gaff set up the Bolts’ first goal of the second game.
Once again, it is clear Gaff is going to drain the GPS batteries quicker than most.