Watson hands back 'tainted' Brownlow
AFL: Sam Mitchell must have been thinking his first official press conference as a West Coast Eagle could not have been more ill-timed.
As the champion onballer who shocked the AFL by crossing from Hawthorn last month fronted the media in Perth with coach Adam Simpson, news broke that Jobe Watson had handed back his 2012 Brownlow Medal.
Of course the significance of that is Mitchell may in turn become the joint-winner of that year's highest individual honour with Trent Cotchin after both finished runner-up to the Essendon skipper.
As one of the 34 past and present Essendon players banned over the club's 2012 supplements program, Watson had been asked to face the AFL Commission on Tuesday next week and present a submission as why he should keep the medal.
The commission has now been left to decide whether it will in fact have a winner at all.
While both would be worthy Brownlow Medallists, retrospectively installing Mitchell and Cotchin as the 2012 league best and fairest would certainly not sit well with either.
While Simpson said "we've got potentially the next Brownlow Medallist here”, Mitchell responded to questions about the development by saying "I'm not here to talk about that”.
Having gone through great turmoil as at times - and unfairly - the face of the Bombers' scandal, Watson spent much of the past year in the United States, and only confirmed he would play on in season 2017 last month.
"The basis of my decision links back to values,” Watson said in a statement.
"Football has always been a part of my life, from being a young boy watching my dad play, to my own ambitions of pursuing a dream to play at an elite level.
"I have benefited from being brought up in a community where people strive to be the best they can be and bring out the best in others.
"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.
"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.”
Quite rightly, Essendon again took responsibility for putting its skipper in such a tough situation.
"Jobe has remained unassailably dignified under the most extraordinary pressure over the past four years,” Bombers chairman Lindsay Tanner said in a statement.
"The club takes responsibility for placing Jobe in this position and unreservedly apologises to him and his family.
"Jobe is a person of the highest integrity and character and has the total support and admiration of our membership, staff, executive and board.
"The Essendon family has been, and will continue to be, incredibly proud of Jobe Watson.”