Jobe Watson, a nuanced footballer

Jenna Downer Roar Rookie

By Jenna Downer, Jenna Downer is a Roar Rookie

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26 Have your say

    Jobe Watson, former captain of the Essendon Football Club, today announced his retirement. The 32-year-old will hang up the boots at the end of the 2017 home-and-away season.

    Watson is a three-time Crichton Medal winner and two-time All-Australian.

    He was also suspended after the Essendon doping scandal.

    Drafted under the father-son rule in 2002, Watson worked hard to emerge from the shadow of his father, Essendon great Tim.

    Jobe’s problematic kicking and fitness levels hindered his early career. Initially, coach Kevin Sheedy thought little of him and he was lucky not to end up on the trade table.

    However, a change in coach and a momentous change in attitude saw Watson transition from a fringe player to a dominant and influential captain in the league.

    From all accounts, he is a measured, kind and intelligent man.

    He has enjoyed several seasons as an elite midfielder in the game he loves, having built a strong-bodied game around an awareness of his inadequacies as an athlete.

    He and 33 others were also found guilty of breaking anti-doping regulations and were sanctioned with a playing ban. In addition, he handed back the highest individual honour the game offers: his Brownlow medal.

    On reflection of this, Watson states “it is what it is”, a revealing statement for a man trying to reconcile an incredibly nuanced circumstance.

    The individual burden of guilt that Watson shouldered in terms of leading a playing squad that was decimated and branded drug cheats probably can’t be understood by anyone outside of the condition. Certainly, he faced much of the media attention and acted as the spearhead for the playing group in communicating their plight.

    Jobe Watson Essendon Bombers AFL

    (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    By his own admission, he still hasn’t processed much of the scandal and calamity that was the Essendon doping saga.

    Football clubs are, despite all the efforts to regulate and administrate, a group of young men who spend more time together than with their families or friends. A bond forged through this time and through common struggles can be unfathomable to those outside.

    Their job and passion requires them to place complete trust in each other.

    In this setting, the importance of your leaders, and their influence, becomes emphasised to the highest degree. As does their accountability. Where Watson sits in the Essendon drug saga ladder of culpability is a conversation for another article, and perhaps another author.

    The fear of failure, of being branded a loser, permeates through the ethos of elite sport. It remains a carnal motivating factor in pushing both your body and mind past reasonable or even thinkable limits.

    But for all the fear of losing, nothing tarnishes like the label of cheating.

    From the very first Olympics – the original formation or organised competitive sport – the shame of cheating was clear. Sophocles said he “would rather fail with honour than to win by cheating,” and this has, for the most part, been the moral compass on which sport has operated and the basis of its marketability.

    Rightly or wrongly, it will be difficult for Watson’s legacy to ever lessen, or remove itself from the stigma of doping. Invariably, a conversation on Watson’s career and a reference to doping will sit interchangeably in public discourse.

    To borrow from Watson, this too is what it is.

    Essendon captain Jobe Watson. Photo: Greg Ford

    (Photo: Greg Ford)

    I arrived later than I would have liked to Essendon’s Round 1 game against Hawthorn at the beginning of the 2017 season. Walking towards the MCG, in the middle of the first quarter, is one of my favourite memories of Jobe.

    I couldn’t even see him.

    Every time he touched the ball, the noise escaping the stadium rose almost three-fold. I could have sworn the MCG was vibrating.

    I also vividly remember his goal on Anzac Day 2013, deep in the pocket. It wasn’t particularly skilful or freakish; he has kicked many better. It was, however, representative of himself as a player. He saw an opportunity, he worked for it, he capitalised.

    He has racked up 27 or more disposals on ten occasions this year. There have been moments of brilliance; lightning handballs reminiscent of some of his best form. He is a calm head with a feel for the game, and a true team man.

    He has also become aggravatingly slow.

    For a footballer who has always struggled with speed, this has proved pricey. Watching him play in Round 20 against Carlton, it was clear just how aware of this he is – one instance, when he had time and space, he seemed hyper-aware and rushed, his decision-making affected.

    He seems to possess just as much, if not more, of the warmth that his father Tim exudes and has made him a regular on our TV screens.

    Jobe has an authenticity that permeates when he speaks and is naturally suited to football media. In 2014, a hip-flexor injury saw him take to our screens as a boundary rider, where he was a comfortable analyser of the game.

    Today, he said that he has had a ‘wonderful’ time as a footballer for the Essendon Football Club. I hope that is true for him in the way that I say it has been truly wonderful to watch him.

    By his own marker, he hoped to leave the club in a better position than he found it. From where I sit, he has.

    I will miss you, Jobe.

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    The Crowd Says (26)

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2017 @ 2:44pm
      AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2017 @ 2:44pm | ! Report

      Oh wow, you and the editors got this up extraordinarily quickly.

      Good article, Jenna.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 3:26pm
        Slane said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:26pm | ! Report

        I got a text at 8.30am telling me that Jobe was retiring today. Word travels quickly in the AFL universe.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 3:28pm
      Birdman said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:28pm | ! Report

      Jenna, I don’t agree with all the sentiments expressed but I agree with AD, this is a very fine bit of writing – well balanced.

      • August 9th 2017 @ 3:53pm
        Don Freo said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

        I agree with all of your sentiments, Jenna, and with the affirmative aspects of Birdman’s sentiments.

        I love good fan responses and you are becoming the voice of a fan that loves all the good stuff. Articles like this, your “Fyfey’s back” article and your “We love Roger” article. More of it please.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 6:56pm
          Birdman said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:56pm | ! Report

          copy that.

      • August 11th 2017 @ 1:35pm
        Gecko said | August 11th 2017 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

        Nice article about a player who, remarkably, emerged from the drugs scandal still withi his character intact and still held in high esteem.

        The only thing in the article that’s a bit extreme is the ending. If Jenna thinks Watson left the club in a better position than he found it, she’s in a very, very small minority.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 3:34pm
      ken oath said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

      “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, 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.”

      Poor choice of words Jobe.

      Fine career, seems like a genuine bloke, shame he got caught up in the crap at that club.

    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2017 @ 3:57pm
      Rick Disnick said | August 9th 2017 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

      He’ll have to live with the guilt of leading 33 others down the same path of stup!dity he did.

      Any intelligent man would have known better, so you’ll excuse me if I think he’s anything but, despite your glowing appraisal of his superior intellect.

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2017 @ 4:03pm
        AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:03pm | ! Report

        You’re not a Jobe fan, got it.

        Surely we can distinguish his on field talents from the controversy, though? He’s still a Essendon legend, not matter what way you look at his actions, I’d argue.

        • Roar Guru

          August 9th 2017 @ 5:34pm
          Rick Disnick said | August 9th 2017 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

          I do look at his actions and he’s a convicted drug che@t. He’s a very good player, but he won’t be remembered as a champion of the game like his father. He’ll be remembered as a che@t & disappointing leader of the highest calibre.

          You’ll see no remorse from me towards anyone who peddles ‘The Dog Ate My Homework’ excuse. Not only was it an insult to the fans, it was an insult to this country that justice could only be served by CAS — an independent body who found no reason to sweep such a joke under the carpet like the AFL did.

          I’ll continue reminding everyone of this very fact in hope this never happens again.

          Remember: There is no such thing as bad teams, only bad leaders.

          • Roar Guru

            August 9th 2017 @ 6:10pm
            AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

            Speaking of reminding everyone in the hope something never happens again, you gonna be at the SCG on Saturday? 😉

            • Roar Guru

              August 9th 2017 @ 6:19pm
              Rick Disnick said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

              I don’t know about me not making a stupid bet ever again, but I’m planning on being there.

              Again, no promises, but it’s likely I’ll get there looking at my current workload.

              If I do, I’ll try my best to get into the Sydney cheer section and sit with them for a bit. Getting a photo will be the fun part. 🙂

              GO DOCKERS!

              • Roar Guru

                August 9th 2017 @ 6:23pm
                AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:23pm | ! Report

                Just get your missus to take a photo before you leave?

                Try and convince her you’ve been a Freo fan the whole time; pretend you were never a Cats fan 😉

              • Roar Guru

                August 9th 2017 @ 6:47pm
                Rick Disnick said | August 9th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

                To be honest, she’s not happy about it. I’ve had to bribe her with a dinner at Quay on the way home.

                Just bought our tickets.

                Bay25 — I think it’s right next to bay18 where the cheer squad sits. Should be easy to wander over when the Dockers are pumping them.

                Lookout for the only Docker’s flog sitting in that section. Will be to the right of the cheer squad on screen.

              • Roar Guru

                August 9th 2017 @ 7:16pm
                AdelaideDocker said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

                Ooooh, Quay’s the rather nice restaurant hey?

                You still got ideas for the associated article? 😉

              • Roar Guru

                August 9th 2017 @ 7:33pm
                Rick Disnick said | August 9th 2017 @ 7:33pm | ! Report

                Yeah, we go a fair bit. It’s her favourite restaurant.

                You’ll just have to wait on the article topic. I’ll try to get it out next week, but it just depends on time really.

                I want to somehow relate it to a relevant topic, whilst being light-hearted at the same time. It will test my writing skills.

                Jay Croucher is the best writer on this forum. If I can do half as good, I’ll be happy.

                Looking forward to it.

    • August 9th 2017 @ 4:30pm
      BigAl said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

      Jobe was a great player and spokesman for the game but his retirement speech/announcement was a bit underwhelming ! The basic message seemed to be “.. nah! – I’m just a bit bored and getting sick of it…”

      Something along the lines “… loved every minute of it…I realise the time has come, as it does for all players to retire… etc. etc…”

      • Roar Guru

        August 9th 2017 @ 4:37pm
        Paul D said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

        Players fill interviews with cliches – people complain they’re boring

        A player attempts to be brutally honest – people complain they should be more cliched

        Daniel Merrett said he was sick of getting flogged and trying to man up on a huge full forward 5-6 years younger than him every week. Mitchell Johnson pretty much came out and said he was sick of bowling on roads when he retired.

        It’s entirely possible for sportspeople to get disillusioned with their career same as anyone else and I applaud him for being honest enough to say it. Maybe some of the Essendon eternal optimists in the stands might finally realise what sort of toll this took on their playing group.

        • August 9th 2017 @ 8:19pm
          Col in paradise said | August 9th 2017 @ 8:19pm | ! Report

          And the incompetent club in the past week say they will let the responsible head coach – Hird – back to the club !!!! Or WTF ???

      • August 9th 2017 @ 10:27pm
        Nineteen said | August 9th 2017 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

        At least he didn’t crack out the ‘Feminist’ cap which he wore at his first press conference having spent time in New York serving his suspension from the game.


    • Roar Guru

      August 9th 2017 @ 4:57pm
      Pumping Dougie said | August 9th 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

      Nicely balanced article Jenna.

      On this afternoon:

      Quizzed on Wednesday, Watson admitted he owed his Nan an explanation, but shed no light on the medal’s whereabouts.

      “I gave her a replica … I probably should tell her that it’s a fake,” he said.

      “My dog Benson didn’t eat it because I’ve never had it.

      “The last time I saw it was in 2012. I gave it to my parents, so I assumed that they sorted it out.”

      Sounds to me like a few porky pies are being told – everyone trying to avoid admitting the medal he handed back to Gill was then passed on to Nan, so that Jobe could rightly say he’s handed it back and doesn’t have it any more, and Gill could be vague about its whereabouts. His cousin Seb Ross did him no favours by letting the secret out, but it’s interesting Jobe is now pushed into a corner about revealing the truth of the matter. As they say, ‘What a tangled web we weave, when we try to deceive‘.

      I concur with Rick Disnick above – Jobe has remained dignified and seems like a terrific guy. He was also a terrific footballer. But he was a fool to agree to the injection program when it wasn’t to treat any injury – irrespective of whether the drugs were illegal or not – and perhaps too nice for his own good. At the end of the day, you gotta feel sorry for the 34 out of 48 who participated, but you have to question their ethics and their smarts. Good luck to Job, I hope he can enjoy the next phase of his life.

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