Jobe Watson will retire from the AFL as a champion, but one whose career will be forever shadowed by the Essendon supplements saga.
Watson, 32, confirmed on Wednesday he would retire at the end of the 2017 season, his 14th in the AFL.
A dual All-Australian, three-time club champion and former captain who led the club through its darkest chapter, Watson will leave the club as one its most beloved sons.
But his career was tainted by the Bombers’ disastrous 2012 supplements program. Watson was one of 34 past and present Essendon players ordered to serve a 12-month doping ban last year, and was also stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal.
The ensuing controversy and the turmoil almost caused Watson to walk away from the game.
He told media on Wednesday that while happy with his career as a whole, the drugs saga had left a bitter taste.
“I guess it’s a little bit like you’re in a relationship and your partner cheats on you or something like that,” he said.
“You might get back together but you probably don’t love her the same way.
“That’s a little bit how I feel about it. I love the game but it doesn’t feel the same to me as what it did.”
Watson said being banned from playing in 2016, along with his teammates, had hurt more than being stripped of the Brownlow.
“The medal didn’t really matter to me, it wasn’t important,” he said.
“I think the people whose opinion I value and who know me the best, they haven’t changed because I had to hand back the Brownlow Medal.”
Watson will play out the remainder of the season – as well as any potential finals campaign – with coach John Worsfold emphasising that Watson was still in the club’s best 22.
Worsfold and Watson had been talking for the past month about his playing future, but Watson opted to bring his decision forward after struggling during the Bombers’ win over Carlton on Saturday.
The Bombers rested Watson twice already this season, and he admitted he was struggling to keep up with the pace of the game.
Watson planned to spend more time in New York, where he worked as a barista during his year off, to escape the media glare, He will pursue his business interest in two Manhattan eateries.
”I will be heading back over there (New York City). I’ve got a couple of businesses over there. A gym that’s opening up and a property and buyers’ advocacy business here as well. So I will probably be spending a bit of time here and there,’’ he said.
Watson will join one of the most illustrious retirement groups in recent memory with Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell, Nick Riewoldt, Matt Priddis and Matthew Boyd all announcing their retirements in the past fortnight.
JOBE WATSON CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
* Recruited by Essendon as a father-son selection (Tim Watson) with the No. 40 selection in the 2002 national draft
* AFL debut round 13, 2003 vs Geelong
* 217 senior games for Essendon (112 goals)
* Three-time club best and fairest
* Two-time All-Australian
* Essendon captain 2010-2015
* AFL Players’ Association best captain award 2012
* International rules player 2014
* Yiooken Award for best on ground in the Dreamtime at the ‘G match, 2012