by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago
Essendon star Jobe Watson announced his retirement a few days ahead of Round 21. Watson, a private person, opened up for the media and his comments on everything - retirement, the supplements saga, his Brownlow, the club, teammates and his future were posted on Bomber TV at the club' own website.ON retirement and his return, : ... I knew it was time, " ... the worst thing you can do is lie to yourself and try to convince yourself that it's not, but deep down you know ... I wasn't able to do things I used to be able to do. The game sped up [in his year off] – it used to be slow for me – so that was my initial inkling ... In the last couple of weeks ... I was thinking about a lot, and especially after last week's game (RD 20), I said to John [Worsfold], 'This is what I feel, rather than wait until the end of the year, I know this is going to be my last year and I'd rather enjoy it than internalize things and worry about it. It makes however long I've got left more enjoyable ... "I think there's relief [the decision is made]. When you make the decision and you know, it's better to come out and publicly say it rather than holding it in. I'm really comfortable that I'm making absolutely the right decision. I'm happy with that ...".
He said he came back after his suspension so he could finish on his own terms, “I’ve really appreciated and really enjoyed seeing the enthusiasm of these young guys, how it’s changed, what they’ve done, what John has been able to do, the supporters- how they’ve enjoyed having us return."
He said he was looking forward to hopefully playing Finals this year but admitted that his love for the game had diminished somewhat, partly due to the supplements saga which saw him suspended for the 2016 season., "I'm content with my career ... it's like you're in a relationship, a partner cheats on you, you might get back together but you don't love them the same way. That's how it feels ... you move on. Life is too short ... ". “There's probably just hurt associated with it, and when you get inflicted like that, with that sort of pain, then invariably the way you Of the saga he said it was the most difficult time, especially after the WADA verdict and watching teammates go through it.
On the Brownlow Medal, which he won in 2012 but was then stripped of it early this year, The medal didn't really matter to me. It wasn't important. It was the people surrounding me, what they thought about it. The people whose opinion I value and know me the best, they haven't changed because I had to hand back a Brownlow Medal.”
On the club and teammates, he said he had enjoyed working with the younger players, "I always focused on leaving the club in a better place than I found it ... I feel it is in a good place." What he has loved most was the " camaraderie and the mateship" and having the chance to "live out a dream" by playing for Essendon, the same club his father Tim played for. He joked that he was far back of the pack when he started, so much so that he was given a five minute head start in time trials but worked hard to get where he is today.
He said he felt sorry for young players coming into the system today due to the amount of scrutiny and pressure they are under.
“The club has been a huge part of my life, it’s been really important to my family, and it has meant a lot to me. I’ve really enjoyed my time here, I’ve made many great friends ... and there’s a lot of people at the club who I’ve known since I was born ... I’m really proud of the way I’ve been able to lead this playing group. I wanted to leave the Club in a better place than when I found it, and I believe the club is in a position now where the playing group has the ability to achieve the success we all want. I’ll be cheering on in future years, but wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the club, the players, coaches and staff. I also want to thank the members and supporters who have been incredible ... and stood alongside us through all the ups and downs ... I’m excited about what this group is capable of this year and beyond.”
On his future, he said he would be splitting time between Australia and New York, where he developed several business interests during his time out of football, " ... we got rated the fourth-best brunch spot in Manhattan ... it's Hole in the Wall, for anyone who doesn't know.” He did not rule out some sort of involvement with the game in the future.
Coach, John Worsfold, said Jobe will go down as one of the greats of the game, “Jobe is the ultimate competitor ... He had to work extremely hard and make some strong commitments early ... to become the Essendon champion he did ... Jobe is just a wonderful, authentic and caring person who has quickly become someone I admire and respect for his values along with his drive and talent. Jobe has served the club with great passion and humility through my short time working with him. I arrived at Essendon aware of Jobe’s ability to change the course of a game ... but what’s been just as impressive is the role he has played in driving the elite culture and holding his teammates to the high standards we expect of one another ... I have no doubt the respect he has from the opposition players, coaches, officials and supporters .... as a great of our game.”
Chairman Lindsay Tanner said the club owed "a great debt" to Watson, " ... I would like to sincerely thank Jobe on his contribution, both on-field and off-field. The way that he displayed leadership, courage and stood up has been hugely important ... we have come an incredibly long way in 18 months and it is through the contribution of Jobe. Jobe will always be a great icon of Essendon.”
CEO, Xavier Campbell, said Jobe’s impact on the Club has been enormous, "The legacy Jobe Watson will leave ...is significant. As a footballer he was breathtaking. As a role model he has been outstanding. Jobe has been an incredible leader ... and will be remembered as a great of the competition, and an absolute champion ... His legacy is the strong culture he has driven at our club. Through his selfless leadership he has helped build a culture which ensured our young players flourished, and places them in a position to achieve the ultimate success into the future. The club owes Jobe an enormous debt, not only has he inspired a generation of young fans to follow the red and black, he successfully led the club through the most challenging of circumstances. And he has done it with enormous grace and an incredibly selfless approach."
Games: 218 (RD 21)
Goals: 112 (RD 20)
Brownlow Medal 2012
All Australian 2012
Best and fairest 2009, 2010
2nd Best and fairest 2006
Captain since 2010
Source: essendonfc.com.au, afl.com.au, sen.com.au
GWS forward Steve Johnson - aka Stevie J- also announced his retirement at the end of the year - whenever that might be as GWS is primed for a September assault. After a stellar career at Geelong, where he played 253 games, kicked 452 goals and was a key in three premierships, the Cats told him his services were no longer needed as they were more focused on youth. He joined the Giants in 2016. He showed he still had what was required, playing 22 games and kicking 43 goals that year. He missed some games early in the season due to a broken finger, but has played 15 games (through RD 21) and has kicked 15 goals. He brought up his 500th career goal this year. He is also in second place on the AFL list for goal assists with 255.
Johnson, 34, said, “At the end of last year, I came to a decision that I would push and play one more and I feel very content that I’ll be leaving the game with nothing left in the tank and to some degree that’s very satisfying, “I’d love to finish on a fairy tale but that doesn’t always happen ... I will train and play as hard as I can over the next ... weeks, hopefully the body holds up ... I’ll certainly ... prepare myself and give myself and the team that opportunity. It’s a really important period for this footy club. I’ve had a great journey here so far, it hasn’t been long but we want to have the ultimate success and I would love to be a part of it. I’ll leave footy at the end of this year very content I’ve got every last inch out of myself.”
His career got off to a shaky start due to several alcohol- related incidents. Former teammate and current media com mentor Cameron Mooney spoke on SEN about those early days, “He’s a country lad. When you say country lad, automatically you turn to ‘he likes a good time on the drink’. That was Stevie to a tee. It actually almost cost him his career on a couple of occasions. Once where he decided that he wanted to get back into the Torquay pub after he’d been thrown out because he was too intoxicated, so he climbed the roof and jumped off and broke both his ankles.” The second incident came during the Christmas break in 2006. According to Mooney, Johnson headed home, hit a pub and then decided to head for a friend's house nearby. What he did not know was that his friend had moved. The owners found Johnson asleep in their back yard and called the police. Many people called for Johnson to be axed, but the Cats' leaders had other ideas, considering his future if they did get rid of him, knowing he had too much talent to waste, "... if we get rid of him where will he be in 10 years, where will he be in 20 years’ time? We thought he’d be the drunk guy at the end of the bar telling everyone what he could have been ... we didn’t want him to have that life so we sent him away and told him that he had to get fit ... He got himself extremely fit and came back ... As a playing group, we feel vindicated that we made that decision at the time.”
In 13 seasons with the Cats, he was a member of Geelong's 2007, 2009 and 2011 premiership sides and won the Norm Smith Medal as best on ground in the 2007 Grand Final. He was the Cats’ leading goal kicker in 2008 and 2010 as he went on to kick 452 goals in 253 games before joining the GIANTS for the 2016 season. He also earned All-Australian honors in 2007, 2008 and 2010 and was named in the extended All-Australian squad in 2009 and 2011.
Giants Football Manager Wayne Campbell paid tribute to Johnson, “Steve has had a simply outstanding career. His legacy as a Geelong player is unquestionable and his impact at our club both on and off the field over the past two seasons has been immeasurable. He exceeded all our expectations with his on-field performance last season but what people don’t often see is the impact he has had on our young forward group and the knowledge he has passed on. We congratulate him on a wonderful career and the legacy he has left on our game.”
Coach Leon Cameron echoed Campbell’s sentiments. “He’s an extraordinary character, he lets his footy do the talking and there’s no doubt over 16 years he’s done that. In his short period of time here, he’s had a massive impact. Off the field he adds fun, he adds seriousness, he adds a competitive brand to our footy club and he wants to play every moment like it’s his last and that’s all you can ask. Our young fellas who have had the opportunity to run around with him on the track or in the gym or on the footy field on game day have no doubt cherished every moment."
Mark ‘Bomber’ Thompson, Johnson’s Geelong coach said in an interview on TV's AFL 360, “I love Stevie. I love people that can do things other people couldn’t do. Stevie was certainly one of them. He could mess up as good as any of them. But he could play the best footy on the ground, and he did that in the grand final. I loved coaching him.”
Johnson returned the compliments saying Thompson was instrumental to his career, “I think a lot of coaches can potentially knock the natural flair out of players when they get to the elite level because of the pressures they’re under ... Bomber saw that I was a player that liked to back myself in and my skills and take the game on. That was when I played my best footy. It must be frustrating at times for all the coaches I’ve had over the journey, but I’ve never had a coach who has tried to peg me back too often. Without their support there’s no way I would have been the player I have been over the years.”
On playing for GWS and love for the game " ... “I’ve certainly loved my experience up in Sydney. It has been great for my family to go up there and do something different, but also for my own development with what I might pursue post football ... A lot of players who get in the AFL say they like to get away from footy as soon as they leave training and don’t watch a lot of footy. I’m a little different ...I could watch about just every game through the weekend and not be sick of it. I’m not sure if it will ever leave me, maybe I’m just obsessed.'
Some people believe he could eventually be a coach himself.
Premierships: 2007, 2009, 2011
Norm Smith Medalist: 2007
All Australian Selection: 2007, 2008, 2010
Games: 290 (through RD 21)
Source: Leigh Meyrick, GWS Media Release, foxsports.com.au, sen.com.au
Article last changed on Thursday, August 17, 2017 - 2:32 AM EDT