Essendon captain Jobe Watson has taken out the 2012 Brownlow Medal, beating out Richmond’s Trent Cotchin and Hawthorn captain Sam Mitchell to claim football’s highest individual honour.
The heavily backed Watson is the first Essendon player to win the Brownlow Medal since his current coach James Hird in 1996, and sixth Bomber overall in the clubs history.
Despite a nervous wait in the back end of the voting, Watson held on to win the count with 30 votes. Mitchell and the fast finishing Cotchin tied for second place with 26 a-piece. Essendon’s form slump in the latter stages of the season left the door ajar for the likes of Mitchell, Cotchin, Gary Ablett and last year’s winner Dane Swan, who polled 25 votes even though he was absent for four of the Magpies matches.
Watson polled strongly in the opening. It reflected Essendon’s impressive start to the AFL season, by which it won eight of its first nine games. At this point, Watson had ammassed an incredible 17 votes. He polled in eight games in a row after the ANZAC Day loss to Collingwood (in which he wasn’t awarded a vote).
However, after that the votes began to dry up, and after round 15, Watson could manage only five votes, but it was enough to secure his first Charlie.
Watson eclipsed his well respected father’s best of 17 votes, but Bomber legend Tim was nothing short of proud of his son on the night. Watson has come from an overweight, underskilled, name-bearing player, to a classy captain and champion of the AFL.
Jobe reflected on the words his father told him in the early part of his career: “He said ‘you don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. At the moment, you’re not doing much’.” Jobe claimed that this motivated him to be the player he is today. Going from an average, to an exemplary kick; A kid with a name to uphold, to a fierce captain and competitor.
From Kevin Sheedy’s last game as the Bomber coach (when Watson was dropped), Watson began to flourish under new coach Matthew Knights. He was moved from the forward line up into the midfield. For that, he lost weight, focussed on his skills, and used the Sheedy influence to drive him. From there on, he established himself as the Bombers’ most important midfielder, averaging no less than 24 disposals a game from 2008 onward.
The Essendon captain has polled well for the last three years, however veins of dropped form, as well as injury, have plagued his Brownlow campaigns in the past. This year, all ran smoothly- except for Essendon’s season. In football, to win a Brownlow, your team has to do well, and the Bombers did not. Despite this fact, Watson defied history, to become the first Brownlow winner since Shane Crawford in 1999, to win the award from outside the top 8.
Watson’s stellar year was a shining light after the Bombers bombed out of finals contention with an array of soft tissue injuries, and lack of form for key movers. Brent Stanton, who shadowed his captain early, fell away, and allowed Jobe to poll the majority of Bomber votes in the second half of the year.
He averaged 29 disposals per game in 2012, as well as 5 tackles and a goal a game- career best figures for himself. Watson can now add Brownlow medal winner to his All Australian selection as the centre, in the list of honours he has received in 2012.
Watson is also favourite to take out the Bombers’ best and fairest award, the Crichton medal, on the 3rd October.
THE TOP TEN
1. Jobe Watson – 30 votes
2. Trent Cotchin – 26
Sam Mitchell – 26
4. Dane Swan – 25
Scott Thompson – 25
6. Gary Ablett – 24
7. Patrick Dangerfield – 23
8. Dayne Beams – 19
Lenny Hayes – 19
Josh Kennedy – 19
Matt Walsh is a tired reporter that multi-tasked between doing dishes at his part time job, and watching the Brownlow. Read his live tweets from the kitchen from Monday night @MattWalshMedia.