Jobe, about the Brownlow …

Date: October 14, 2016 / Posted by Glenn Mitchell

watsonHawthorn’s Sam Mitchell is in the news at present. He will back in the headlines again next month.

His footballing life is about to go through a massive change with a proposed move to West Coast and the likely being awarded a Brownlow Medal. Along with Richmond skipper Trent Cotchin, the pair are likely to be the recipients of the 2012 Brownlow Medal won by former Essendon captain, Jobe Watson.

The duo polled 26 votes, four shy of Watson’s winning tally.

The Swiss Federal Court’s decision not to uphold an appeal by the ‘Essendon 34’ means the legal avenues to have their back-dated, 24-month suspensions overturned have expired. There are no other options available to them. It is the end of the road.

The AFL Commission will sit on 15 November to consider whether Watson keeps the most coveted individual honour in the sport.

Surely it is a fait accompli.

Watson has to be stripped of his Brownlow. The only thing to be decided is whether runners-up Mitchell and Cotchin are elevated or an asterisk is added to the history books.

Some will argue that the fact Watson did not return a positive test casts doubt over whether he used performance enhancing drugs. That is irrelevant as it was the Russian athletes who were banned from competing at the Rio Olympics. Some may never have used PEDs yet they were denied the chance to compete at an Olympic Games.

In the end, despite appeals through the Federal Courts in both Australia and Switzerland, the fact remains the ‘Essendon 34’ were handed suspensions.

Those suspensions related to the 2012 season, the season in which Watson won the Brownlow.

No rational argument can be mounted for Watson retaining the medal. Mitchell and Cotchin deserve to have the medal awarded retrospectively.

Yes, Watson and his 2012 teammates all polled votes that season and it could be argued that had they not been on the field other players would have benefited and received votes.

In essence, however, Essendon would not realistically have been able to field a team with 34 players on the sidelines.

The Brownlow Medal is the only individual award in the league for overall brilliance that goes to the “fairest and best” player. Only players who have not been suspended during the home-and-away season can win the it.

Yet, even if a player receives a suspension after the first round he can continue to poll votes even though he cannot be declared the winner. He continues to poll votes even though he has forfeited the right to win by virtue of ‘unfair’ behaviour on the field.

If that distortion is allowed to colour the overall voting for a season I see no reason why the runners-up should not be the beneficiaries of the transgressions that Watson was found guilty of.

He does have the right to plead his case before the AFL Commission. The thought of a player beseeching the sports governors to retain its most coveted award does not sit well.

Now that the legal avenues have been exhausted and exoneration is no longer possible, Watson may decide to relinquish the medal himself. He would likely win respect in many quarters for doing so.

That act would not be an admission of guilt but merely an admission that the facts as they are show he is not eligible to retain it. And that is the bottom line.

One thing remains undeniable – the ‘Essendon 34’ were found to be in breach of the WADA Code, to which the AFL is a signatory, by the Court of Arbitration of Sport.

All legal arguments and avenues to have that decision overturned were moot. As such, the medal must be removed should Watson not relinquish it of his own volition.

Failure to do so would fly in the face of AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan’s comments when announcing the date of the Commission’s hearing on the matter.

“The AFL is fully committed to clean sport, for the sake of the players from all clubs in the competition.”

Essendon were found to be in breach of that ethos.

As a result, Jobe Watson does not deserve to remain a Brownlow medallist.

First published on The Roar – theroar.com.au – on 13 October 2016, soliciting 53 comments