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  5. When is a “Coward’s Punch” not a “Coward’s Punch”? Apparently, on the footy oval.
10 May 2016

On the Footy Oval


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.


Garboud, from East Perth, hit Bristow, of East Fremantle, in the neck from behind whilst he was without the ball. Garboud 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 Punches.


Despite the controversy, WAFL manager, Cam Knapton says the governing body is satisfied with this punishment (Rynne, 3 May 2016).


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 2016).


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 foreseeable.


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 mitigating factors.


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 the 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.


This is only general information and does not constitute specific legal advice.  If you would like further information in relation to this matter or other legal matters please contact our office on Freecall 1800 609 945 or email us now.



, Danny Green slams WAFL ‘coward’s punch’, on May 3, 2016, 


Amy Martin, Man seriously injured after assault at Perth’s Amplifier bar, Perth Now on January 23, 2016, 

Commonwealth of Australia, 2016, <https://www.respect.gov.au/?gclid=CP6d_7nZvcwCFQaSvQodrmQFPw>


Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA).

*This is general information only, and does not constitute specific legal advice. Please consult one of our experienced Legal Team for specific advice relevant to your situation.

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