HANGING up inside West Coast's meeting room at the MCG was a sign that read 'Pave the Way – Friends, Family, Flags'. 

It spoke of a culture where no one is excluded. That philosophy was evident moments after the song was belted out, with spearhead Josh Kennedy seeking out suspended midfielder Andrew Gaff for a warm embrace.

Ruckman Nic Naitanui (right knee) and backman Brad Sheppard (left hamstring) were injured, and would have experienced mixed emotions as their victorious teammates celebrated with vigour, but took the time to console Magpies Adam Treloar, Steele Sidebottom and Ben Reid as they left for their bus.

Naitanui's distress was especially apparent, as the usually upbeat ruckman went straight to a back room after the song to avoid attention, while Sheppard understandably turned down an interview request. 


Scott Lycett, the man who replaced Naitanui as the Eagle's No.1 ruck, summed the situation up.

"I just put myself in their shoes and I'd be absolutely devastated," Lycett told AFL.com.au.

"All I can really say to them is that I love them (and) wish they were out here. 

"I just feel so sad for them. They're my brothers for life still … even though they weren't out there. I still love them no matter what."

An emotional Gaff described what he was going through.


"It's obviously so tough for the few of us that can't play and want to be out there," Gaff told reporters after the game.

"It's been really hard. It's really hard at the moment and we'll be OK, but it's just very bittersweet at the moment.

"We'll be OK, (it's a) really exciting, great day for the footy club. That's the most important thing."


Sitting in the stands as a spectator despite being fit was strange for Gaff. 

"You feel pretty numb watching it. You don't know what to think," Gaff said. 

"That's what we strive for, to win flags, and we've done it today. The whole club couldn't be happier with how it's gone." 

Andrew Gaff was clearly shattered after the game, having missed the premiership thanks to his suspension for punching Fremantle's Andrew Brayshaw. Picture: AFL Photos

Gaff was banned after his stunning brain fade in the round 20 Western Derby saw him punch Fremantle draftee Andrew Brayshaw, resulting in an eight-match ban.

That time has been difficult, to say the least, but he was philosophical enough to have perspective on a turbulent period.


"You have a real big setback at age 26 as opposed to 46 (and) you figure out who's really close to and who means a lot to you, probably more so than if something happens when you're 45 or 46," Gaff said.

"That's something I can take out of it. You get to know the people that are really there for you when you're struggling."


For now, a trip around Australia awaits. He will first travel to Tasmania with his partner before heading to North Queensland.

"Going to do a few different things and just take my mind off it all," Gaff said.

There's been a lot going on. On top of dealing with that incident against the Dockers and looking on as his side charged to its fourth flag in club history, Gaff is a restricted free agent and North Melbourne is making a huge play for the Victorian. 



The 26-year-old had no update – "Nothing at this stage" – as he contemplates a life-changing decision, but will use the holiday as a much-needed escape.

"You've got to do something different, and be in a different environment, and doing different things," he said.