by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
The AFL Commission was scheduled to meet on November 15 to discuss, among other things, whether or not to strip Jobe Watson of his 2012 Brownlow Medal. However, about a week before the meeting Watson decided to return the medal himself. He said he had "mixed emotions" regarding his decision. Now the Commission will decide whether or not to award the medal retrospectively to the two runners-up in Sam Mitchell and Dustin Martin.Jobe Watson issued a statement which read in part, "... the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland dismissed the appeal ... "This may represent finality of this matter from a legal perspective, however the reality is that ... it is something that we will continue to carry with us ... "Football has always been a part of my life, from ... watching my dad play, to my own ambitions ... to play at an elite level ... "It has been incredibly distressing ... to have people question my integrity and infer an intention to act against the spirit of the game ... The basic principle behind this prestigious award is to honor the fairest and best. If there is a question in people's minds as to whether the award is tainted, the fairest and best thing to do is to give it back and honor the history that has gone before me. I want to make it clear that today's decision does not in anyway reflect a change in my personal opinion regarding the merits of the CAS finding, but rather reflects my desire to put to a close further speculation ... One of the most frustrating elements ... has been my belief that many of the decisions in this matter have been based on perception rather than evidence. I would like to share my thoughts with the AFL Commission, however that needs to be at a time and in a forum that is right for me."
Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner also issued a statement in which he said the club is taking responsibility for putting Watson in such a position and praised his integrity and character, "Jobe has remained unassailably dignified under the most extraordinary pressure over the past four years. "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 club takes responsibility ... and unreservedly apologizes to him and his family. The Essendon family has been, and will continue to be, incredibly proud of Jobe Watson."
AFL Players' Association CEO Paul Marsh expressed disappointment for Jobe but said the AFLPA respected his decision. He echoed Tanner's sentiments in saying that, "Jobe remains a true champion ... and a universally respected leader ... Jobe has spoken of his values driving his decision and ... he has proven to be a man of great integrity and he has displayed incredible selflessness in making this decision." He also said he hoped the past and present players would be given "space" to move on from the entire saga.Commission chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said the rules surrounding the Brownlow didn't give the League much room to reach any other decision. He said it was a sad day and a a difficult decision but it was also a day to "recognize and celebrate two champions of the game." CEO GIl McLachlan said it would not be appropriate to denote "no winner" in 2012. Cotchin, 26, becomes just the fifth Richmond player to win the Brownlow, following Stan Judkins (1930), Bill Morris (1948), Roy Wright (1952 and 1954) and Ian Stewart (1971). Mitchell, 34, joins Col Austen (1949), Robert DiPierdomenico (1986), John Platten (1987) and Shane Crawford (1999) as Hawthorn Brownlow winners. He joined West Coast last month during the AFL trade period.
In announcing the Commission decision, the AFL released a statement noting that Watson honored the award's history by handing back the medal and called his gesture "noble", "In respecting the values of the competition, and putting the interests of the game before his own, Jobe has shown his commitment to fair play – the qualities of a champion." Chairman Mike Fitzpatrick said Jobe "... demonstrated a willingness to consider the game beyond his own personal situation. At all times, Jobe has carried himself with dignity ... The impact of this decision on him and his family is one of great sadness for the game." He again referred to the 2012 supplements saga as a stain on the game and acknowledged that the players involved suffered greatly for it.
Cotchin said he would accept with "mixed emotions", saying it had been a difficult time for Watson whom he respects. Mitchell echoed the sentiments, saying while he was honored, he felt great empathy for Watson and his family.
In related news, Essendon announced a loss of over $9 million for 2016. Much of it is related to legal costs, compensation claims by players and contracts for the "top-up" players who came in for the banned Bombers. CEO Xavier Campbell is confident the club can recover through systems they have in place.
Article last changed on Tuesday, December 20, 2016 - 1:21 AM EST