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Bombers chairman praises Watson for making 'right decision'

Callum Twomey
December 19, 2016 8:24 PM

AFL 2016 Training - Essendon 071216

Jobe Watson is back training ahead of season 2017

ESSENDON chairman Lindsay Tanner has praised Jobe Watson for making the "right decision" in handing back his Brownlow Medal.

Watson chose to give up the prestigious honour last month just days before the AFL Commission was due to make a call on whether the Bombers star should keep the medal. 

The 31-year-old, who toyed with leaving football during his 12-month anti-doping ban before becoming the final Bomber to recommit to returning in 2017 after his suspension, said in a statement he had "mixed emotions" about giving back the Brownlow.

Speaking at the Bombers' annual general meeting on Monday night, Tanner commended the champion midfielder for his conduct throughout the club's tumultuous past four years.

"On behalf of the entire Essendon community, I'd like to formally acknowledge Jobe Watson, who has remained unassailably dignified over the past several years under extraordinary pressure," Tanner said.

"He's a person of the highest integrity and character and has the total support and admiration of our membership, staff, players, executive and board. 

"We all know the decision he chose to make [with his Brownlow]. I think probably it was the right decision.

"I'm not sure I would've had the courage to make that decision, but he's somebody who deserves unqualified respect, admiration and thanks from the Essendon Football Club." 

Joint runners-up in 2012, Sam Mitchell and Trent Cotchin, were officially recognised last week as the winners of the medal

After four years under the cloud of the ASADA and WADA saga, the Bombers will enter 2017 without any off-field dramas impacting their fortunes on the ground. 

Tanner spoke of the optimism within the club, saying a "heavy character test" had been passed, particularly last season when it found numerous positives despite finishing on the bottom of the ladder.

But he warned against believing the return of a full playing list and a bunch of new top-end draftees over the past two years would immediately push the Bombers back up the ladder. 

"We've got to guard against that sense of entitlement and expectation and assumption that all long-term successful organisations can fall prey to," he said.

"We've had a pretty nasty reality check over the past few years, we've survived that, we've learned a lot of lessons and now's the time to apply those lessons and put Essendon back to where it belongs at the top of the football world."

The club's financial director Paul Brasher addressed members at the meeting about the club's massive $9.8 million loss in 2016, with Tanner admitting the figure showed the pain of the past four years was not quite finished. 

Tanner said the "process of healing and recovery" is continuing.

"What we've done up until now has got us to this point, it's given us an opportunity to pursue success again. It doesn't guarantee it," Tanner said.

"Our recovery process from the dramas of the past few years is now well advanced, but it's not over. Our financial position is of course testament to that, but we have made great progress." 

Despite the club's debt, the Bombers will look to beef up their impressive Tullamarine base in coming seasons by adding lights to one of the two grounds for its VFL squad to train under as well as a revamped Hall of Fame to recognise Essendon's history.