Thanks @Begbie, a really good/lovely piece.
(haven’t posted link, is subscriber only)
Essendon fans will never stop cheering for star Bomber Jobe Watson
Rick Edwards, Herald Sun
September 7, 2017 4:54pm
AT the height of his career between 2010 and 2013, Jobe Watson was like a 300-year-old oak tree that could not be moved.
His modus operandi was to read the ball beautifully from the ruckman’s palm, take possession and direct a handball to a running teammate, all the while having one or two players trying to bring him down. Opposing teams nearly always failed to stop Watson disposing of the ball effectively. His arms seemed as long as branches, his legs more solid than tree trunks.
Like all elite footballers, he had time. He never seemed hurried. As with the last champion Essendon midfielder before him — James Hird — Watson at his best could make the game stand still.
That poise was evident in his very first game in 2003. He only had two handballs but the first one he had the presence to pretend to go to kick on his right before hesitating and moving onto his left side and firing out a handball with his left hand.
He was quick of mind, unlike his father Tim who was quick of foot. Watson senior would seem to sear the turf at Windy Hill as he sprinted upright with rapid-fire steps.
They both excelled under pressure, but Tim never faced a furnace like Jobe did when the Essendon supplements’ saga erupted in February 2013.
Playing against West Coast at Subiaco in June of that year Watson was booed every time he got the ball. And in a best-on-ground, three-Brownlow vote appearance that was plenty of times.
The Eagles supporters were reacting to Watson admitting on Foxtel’s ‘On The Couch’ program that he took the supplement AOD-9604. It was rumoured to be banned at that time but later the anti-doping regulators said it wasn’t.
Watson broke down at the end of the game, sobbing in the middle of the oval as his teammates celebrated a gutsy come-from-behind win.
It was the only time during a torturous four years that Watson would lose composure in the public arena.
Not once did he take the opportunity to savage the architect of the supplements program, Stephen Dank, nor did he ever choose to throw a grenade at the club or James Hird.
Just as he did on the field, Watson was all class off it. In late 2016 with pressure building on the AFL to strip Watson of his Brownlow Medal, Watson again stood tall. He handed the medal back.
While making it clear it was “incredibly distressing” for his integrity to be questioned, Watson said he was conscious of the honour and the history of the medal and if people questioned whether his medal was tainted, he essentially did not want to keep it.
Watson struggled at times during the 2017 season. There were murmurings going all the way back to January of him not enjoying football. He admitted as much when he had his press conference to retire a few weeks ago.
Perhaps his final act was scripted to be against Fremantle at Etihad. If the Dons didn’t make finals, it would be Watson’s swan song.
But like all champions, Watson was never going to go quietly. He wound back the clock to his vintage years and almost single-handedly got the stumbling Bombers over the line against the Dockers.
Watson broke packs, tackles and Freo spirit with his 20 contested possessions. No one else on the day got as much contested ball, not even the Fremantle captain and warrior Nat Fyfe.
After four years of hopelessness, the month of September brings hope for Watson. His comeback story might just have another twist or two.
Rick Edwards is author of ‘We Are Essendon’ the story of how the supplements saga took a toll on Bomber fans and how the club is building towards its next flag.