You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Watson makes smart call in returning medal

AAP logoAAP 11/11/2016 John Salvado

Jobe Watson no longer has a Brownlow Medal to hang around his neck.

But - on the bright side - he no longer has a monkey on his back. Or a target on his forehead.

Watson was the skipper and stand-out player of the 2012 Essendon team, 34 of whom were hit with one-year doping bans for their roles in the spectacularly ill-conceived supplements program.

That he won the Brownlow Medal in that very season - four votes clear of Richmond's Trent Cotchin and Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell - only added to the opprobrium heaped on him in some quarters.

How could an award for the league's best and fairest player stay with a man who had served a doping ban?

To his credit, Watson did not dodge that tricky question on Friday.

"It has been incredibly distressing for me to have people question my integrity and infer an intention to act against the spirit of the game - a spirit that is intrinsically a part of who I am," he said.

"The basic principle behind this prestigious award is to honour the fairest and best.

"If there is a question in people's minds as to whether the 2012 award is tainted, the fairest and best thing to do is to give it back and honour the history that has gone before me."

Watson and his former and current Essendon teammates remain convinced they did not deserve the one-year suspensions.

Watson took it harder than anyone else.

He spent much of 2016 in New York - as far away as possible from the suffocating AFL bubble - before finally making the decision in September to resume his playing career in red and black in 2017.

Doing so will be much less difficult without constant criticism about why he refused to voluntarily give the medal back.

The AFL Commission gave Watson the chance to plead his case to keep it.

Wisely, the 31-year-old turned them down.

Handing the Brownlow back on his own terms and starting 2017 with a clean slate - or as clean as possible given the murky nature of what has happened at Essendon in the past few years - was the smart play.

And it was the right play.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon