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Sad but true, it’s time for Jobe to call it a day

Jobe Watson during Essendon’s win over Carlton. The former skipper ended up with just 11 possessions, only two of them kicks. Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Sad but true, it’s time for Jobe Watson to call it a day

Essendon is making a serious assault on a finals berth. But simultaneously, the Bombers are dealing with what has become a large elephant in the room. Jobe Watson.

Whether or not the Dons end up qualifying for the finals, what has become increasingly clear in recent weeks is that the much-loved former captain cannot be a part of their plans beyond this season.

An intelligent and thoughtful man, Watson may well have been the first person to work that out. If by some chance he hasn’t, Essendon has a very difficult conversation ahead.

Footballers in their 30s can occasionally soldier on in modified roles, more rarely have something of a renaissance. But for Watson, father time has caught up very quickly indeed.

The man who was the public face of the Essendon players suspended by the Court of Arbitration for Sport is far from the only one of that group to have struggled this season after a year out of the game. There will be several others also given the wind-up at the end of 2017. But with nothing like the anguish that would accompany this decision.

But for the Bombers there is no alternative. The signs for Watson haven’t been good since the 2017 season began. And they’re getting worse.

While never blessed with speed, Watson’s ball-getting ability has been his stock in trade. And for much of his career, so has been his ball use.

At Watson’s peak, in 2012, when he won a Brownlow Medal now officially removed from his CV, he was averaging 30 possessions and seven clearance wins per week. Almost all were used to his team’s advantage with razor-sharp handball and precise kicking.

That, sadly, is no longer the case. What has also been apparent all of this season is that Watson’s decision-making skills have evaporated.

Some poor choices with ball in hand have proved costly, most noticeably in Essendon’s shock defeat at the hands of Brisbane in round 15 when with the Bombers still a chance late in the game, an ill-judged chip into the centre of the ground led to a shocking turnover and a goal which sealed the Dons’ fate.

He’s looked uncharacteristically hesitant and turned the ball over too often. And attempts to turn him into a de facto forward where his lack of pace isn’t such an issue simply haven’t worked.

The one thing which had remained intact was Watson’s capacity to win the ball, his disposal average this season still a relatively healthy 24 per game.

But on Saturday against Carlton, that came unstuck as well. Watson laboured through a game Essendon was fortunate to win, finishing with only 11 disposals, just two of those kicks. That was his lowest return in any game in which he hadn’t been injured since 2009. And what touches the veteran did have were at times painful to watch.

In his current form, Essendon are facing a tough enough decision even justifying Watson’s place in the 22 for a crucial game this week against Adelaide. That alone suggests the decision about next year is patently obvious.

Watson has carried himself with dignity throughout a sorry period for his club, no more so than when he chose to hand back the 2012 Brownlow, sparing the AFL the awkwardness of having to strip the medal from him.

Essendon owes him plenty. Yet that can’t extend to another season with a clutch of younger, longer-term prospects itching for opportunity and the club holding itself back if they aren’t given one.

An announcement as soon as possible that this season is his last, similarly to Luke Hodge and Nick Riewoldt, would at least give Watson and Essendon the chance to suitably honour what has been an outstanding career.

That’s the very least he deserves. But there can no longer a debate about whether Watson has a playing future. If actions speak louder than words, Watson’s performances have themselves answered that question emphatically.

  1. Totally Agree Rohan,

    As a Bomber fan its sad to see. His kicking both field and goal kicking has gone back to the bad old days and his speed (or lack there of) is detrimental to the team in the modern game.

    A couple of years ago I remember when the Bombers struggles to kick a score up forward, Job was excellent one on one and would kick match turning goals when the chips were down. I thought towards the end of his career he could be that midfielder turned into key forward. Sadly his goal kicking accuracy is terrible and I think it would be likely that he could miss a few games towards the season’s end

  2. As someone that has very strong feelings about the entire Hirdy debacle, I feel sad that Jobe will be linked with that forever. He seemed like a good guy, but I’m glad that he lost the Brownlow, athletes and clubs have got to learn that there are consequences.

  3. G’day RoCo
    I am very torn by this. His last few weeks have been pretty horrible. The missed goal last week from 15m out at a relatively crucial point of the game was quite indicative of his confidence levels. To say he is a shadow of his former self is doing his shadow disservice!

    I really hate to say this, but I think he needs to be dropped this week. He cannot be carried into the Adelaide game. It is too big for the Dons – a win here will pretty much lock in a finals spot with only 1 further win required (probably)

    But, for what happened, well, it goes without saying. The club will certainly feel that he deserves every opportunity to get himself up and running for the remainder of the year.

    I really think its curtains for a great Essendon player and a champion person.

  4. Not disagreeing but don’t write him off too soon. I think there will be a twist to this tale.

  5. It is sad to watch the demise of great players. Watching Jobe over the last few games reminds me of 1992 and watching the great Terry Daniher losing his ability to mark and get to the drop of the ball instinctively. TD looked lost and Sheedy dropped him after about round 5 or 6. jobe has been a great and loyal player for the Bombers and so much more as the saga dragged on. His leadership throughout was of the highest order. But all things come to an end. And as much as I hate to say it, Jobe has run his race.

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