The AFL Commission got it wrong when in re-awarding the 2012 Brownlow Medal. Everything the medal stands for was lost in 2012. It need not be associated with the year.
Jobe Watson did the right thing in giving the medal back. It was both noble and prudent, and saved everyone an awkward public announcement and returning ceremony. It is the only way to redeem the aware. He is guilty through naivety and ignorance, not purposeful intent to break the rules.
No matter how you look at it, Sam Mitchell and Trent Cotchin have been given a tainted medal.
Not just Jobe Watson as a PED cheat, but another 33 players all guilty of the same crime ruined the season. Can every player say everyone had the same chance as everyone else in the league? Is it fair for the players who played the Bombers twice? They played the Tigers twice and Hawthorn once; does this mean Cotchin had it harder?
Knowing that Essendon players had an unfair advantage must have had an effect on individual performances elsewhere in the league. There are so many more what if’s that can legitimately be asked.
The two new winners are also in awkward situation. Mitchell and Cotchin both watched the AFL declare Watson the league best and fairest. Can they honestly display the medal thinking that Watsons TMSB4 made the difference? Should they accept the medallion that will always be associated to Steven Dank?
They will never know definitively they were better than Watson was. Unlike Jarred Tallent, they have never come out in public feeling robbed. How do they feel behind closed doors, taking a second hand trinket, knowing their own club could have so easily employed Dank or another Witch Doctor?
2012 will always be the year that James Hird and Co oversaw a doping regime. We all watched their players suffer an inordinate amount of muscle tears. Hawthorn should not lose their flag- they were better then everyone.
Cotchin and Mitchell were not, however. Fairer, yes, but better will always be unproven. The heart of the Chas Brownlow is ripped out.
The AFL has consistently tried to make this go away- the term “not comfortably satisfied” will forever be a technical term for “head in the sand.” The default is to try to make everything look ok. It isn’t, and it never will be.
Instead of trying to make it go away again, the AFL should man up and own this dark taint on the game for once.
The 2012 winner should be blank, the Brownlow without a soul to live in.