The recent "Coward Punch" of Agid Gardoud against
James Bristow on the football field has highlighted a light handed
approach towards violence that is not an accurate reflection of
what would happen off the football field.
Gardoud, from East Perth, hit Bristow, of East Fremantle, in the
neck from behind whilst he was without the ball. Gardoud received a
mere 2 game suspension from the WAFL Match Review Panel after
entering an early guilty plea.
There is contention about whether this is sufficient punishment
for a role model, given current community attitudes towards Coward
Despite the controversy, WAFL manager, Cam Knapton says the
governing body is satisfied with this punishment (Rynne, 3 May
In contrast Boxer, Danny Green, has expressly stated "the
WAFL needs to send a stronger message" (Rynne, 3 May 2016).
Green explains that he perceives this undefended attack as a
Coward's Punch and that a Coward's Punch, "whether
it's on the football field, whether it's on any sporting
arena anywhere, it's got to go" (Rynne, 3 May 2016).
Green's thoughts may be more aligned with the current community
concern about incidents of Coward Punches (Martin, 23 January
The WAFL Match Review Panel's light punishment sends the
wrong message to young men about what is serious violence and what
repercussions can result. Unfortunately, what is not conveyed is
that if this incident had occurred off the football field, the
offender could be facing very serious consequences.
Off the Footy Oval
In 2008 Western Australia enacted a specific law to address this
type of violence where it occurs off the football field. Known as
the One Punch or Coward's Punch provision; section 281 of the
Western Australian Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913
specifically addresses assault where it causes death. This law
establishes an offender's criminal liability for 10 years
imprisonment, even if the death was not intended or reasonably
Even where death does not occur, an assault like Gardoud's,
off the football field, can still result in serious penalties.
Under the Western Australian Criminal Code Act Compilation Act
1913, Gardoud may have been able to be charged under section 317,
assault causing bodily harm. Bodily harm is any bodily injury which
interferes with health or comfort, section 1. This charge carries a
possible sentence of up to 5 years imprisonment depending on
factors in the case, like the circumstances around the offence and
However, if aggravating factors exist, the maximum imprisonment
penalty increases to 7 years. Aggravating circumstances include
factors such as a victim being a family member, section 221. Given
Australia's current campaign to reduce and prevent family
violence, the WAFL Match Review Panel's light punishment of
Gardoud is sending the wrong message about our community's
tolerance of violence (Commonwealth of Australia, 2016).
It is clear that Gardoud's punishment does not accurately
reflect how our community currently views the seriousness of the
Coward's Punch or the reality of what could happen if it
occurred off the football field.
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