It is sad, ironic and somewhat befitting that the AFL’s classiest and most dignified player was dealt the worst hand of them all.
Sad, because Jobe Watson deserved so much more from the game he dedicated himself to.
Ironic, because he is the only player who could be dragged through such muddy waters and emerge just as humble and measured as when he was swept up by them.
Somewhat befitting, because it gave every member of the football world a chance to recognise and respect his integrity – not as a footballer, but as a person.
If life is 10 per cent what happens to you, and 90 per cent how you react to it, then Jobe’s football life has been an immeasurable success.
Jobe was a refreshing change from the institutionalised AFL footballer we see today, who is taught not to evoke any form of emotion or weakness for fear of exploitation. He was never afraid to show us that he was human, and always found a way to convey the anguish and desolation that he was feeling without foregoing any of the class or composure that made him so great.
The image of him in a denim shirt, sitting in front of 33 other players facing doping bans at a press conference in the depths of the supplements saga is the image that comes to my mind when his name is mentioned:
As the other 33 stand behind him, too vexed to speak, their leader addresses the media with honesty, conviction and authenticity.
Like their public relations specialist, Jobe always found a way to appropriately articulate how he and his men were feeling without turning anyone offside.
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Jobe never let anyone take anything from him. He was graceful and one step ahead on and off the field until the end. At the peak of his footballing prowess, he was a first-class reader of the play and master of the ‘underground’ handball, which allowed him to escape contests and confrontations without the natural gifts of speed or power that his opponents all seemed to possess.
When they came for his medal, Jobe surrendered it before anyone asked. When they came for his head, Jobe bowed out gracefully and on his own terms, ensuring we all had a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye.
I love that we have more of Jobe the footballer to look forward to, but I’m not necessarily looking forward to seeing him rack up more clearances, or squirt a handball out of a pack. I’m looking forward to the roar – the noise of the standing ovation that will naturally erupt when he takes a mark on the wing with the clock winding down, no matter the score.
I hope the support and applause helps him feel content in knowing that using all of his energy and resilience to steer this ship through its roughest seas was not a waste, but rather a fulfillment.
It has been a most selfless journey, to guide his club to greener pastures and relinquish his highest personal accolade in the process.
But they can never truly take away that Chas, and by all accounts the AFL haven’t bothered to collect it. And no one cares, because it’s Jobe.