“I guess it’s a little bit like you’re in a relationship and your partner cheats on you or something like that… You might get back together, but you probably don’t love her the same way. That’s a little bit how I feel about it. I love the game, but it doesn’t feel the same to me as what it did… When you get inflicted like that with that sort of pain invariably the way you feel about something changes and that is how it feels to me.”
– Jobe Watson, announcing his retirement at the end of this season
Father son pick, late bloomer
Jobe Watson was drafted in 2003 as the son of a former club great, Tim Watson, with Pick 40 under the father-son rule. For years he was the source of great frustration, as he didn’t bloom early. Fans wanted more skill, more speed, and comparisons to his dad didn’t help that. Little did we know that over the years, Watson would become one of our club’s great players, because of what he did on the field and off it.
Despite a slow start, Watson became one of the game’s greats. A ferocious player, his game was built on hard work. He mightn’t have been the fastest player, or the most skillful, but every time he went into the contest, every single Bombers fan believed he was coming out the other side with the ball. Time after time, Jobe was the hardest man on the ground, and through a few rough years on the field, he was the lifeblood of the Essendon Football Club. Watson became the captain in 2010, and he has remained the heart of the club, but that was even more important off the field.
Brownlow win and breakout years
The leader of fast developing Essendon side, Watson was awarded the Brownlow Medal in 2012. Everybody knows what has happened in the intervening years, but many Essendon supporters would argue that Brownlow Medals are won and lost on the field, not in a courtroom. The record books might have a line through his name, but it is hard for any Essendon fan who closely watched his performances that year to countenance anything other than him being the rightful winner of any accolade that came his way that year. That he had to surrender them due to actions of those he trusted to act in his best interest is perhaps the greatest crime of all.
While it is perhaps equally true of all the players who went through the WADA heartache, it is hard not to feel especially sorry for Watson, one of the genuine nice guys of football.
ASADA woes and dark times
The “girlfriend cheating” metaphor is quite apt. For no reason of his own, when you consider the Essendon Football Club, that was meant to look after his interests, instead mistreated and endangered him. Despite this, as the leader of the club, Watson continued to be the public face of the controversy on behalf of the club. In one of the darkest times of his career, he continued to front up and answer the tough questions and remain as honest and forthcoming as he could possibly be.
Sometimes unfairly, we ask our sports stars to be role models, but Watson has spent his entire career being just that. Professional and steadfast to the end, you would be hard pressed to find another player more universally admired and respected than Watson. Throughout his career he stood up and faced adversity head on, and we as a club and supporter base should be forever grateful for that.
Comeback season and time for goodbyes
Even if it doesn’t feel the same, the Bomber faithful is incredibly grateful that Jobe did come back. Jobe stated himself that the game changed and passed him by, but if he hadn’t been there for the rebirth, it wouldn’t have felt right. Just as Jobe was there for the struggles, his return signalled Essendon’s rebirth.
If Watson hadn’t come back then there wouldn’t be the chance to say goodbye properly; a finals campaign and his second ever finals win would be a perfect send off. It might not be the illustrious end his career deserves, for Essendon fans the only thing close to what he deserves is sitting in Gillon McLaughlin’s drawer at AFL House, but it is close and the Bomber faithful can at least dream (no matter how unlikely) of a fairytale end.
The game has been cruel to Jobe Watson, but football will miss him, even if he doesn’t miss it so much. Just rest assured that if there’s a massive influx of Essendon supporters in the USA sometime soon, his café Hole In The Wall will no longer just be the 4th most popular brunch place in Manhattan.
Has Jobe pulled the pin a season too early, or is the time just right for him to retire? Share your thoughts and comments below.
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