Bombers coach John Worsfold has paid tribute to Watson, saying the ex-skipper’s stirring three-quarter time address sparked Saturday night’s 27-point AFL win over Brisbane Lions.
Essendon looked set for a huge percentage boosting round two win when they led by 42 points late in the second term at the Gabba.
At one stage they kicked eight straight goals as vice-captain Zach Merrett and forward Orazio Fantasia ran amok.
However, a shell-shocked Bombers limped into the final break holding just a five-point lead after a rejuvenated Lions dominated clearances.
“He was the vocal one at three-quarter time and was ready to step up to that midfield challenge,” Worsfold said of Watson, who relinquished the Bombers captaincy to Dyson Heppell in 2017.
“He was really disappointed they’d let Brisbane beat us at stoppages in that third quarter. His leadership is still there for us all to see.”
In just his second game back from a 12-month ban, Watson’s three-quarter time challenge quickly fired up teammates in the sheds.
“We basically challenged them to take it (midfield challenge) on,” Worsfold said.
“We said ‘we’re not going to support you, as in put extra numbers in there, but let’s step up to that challenge’ and they did that.
“It was really pleasing that they (players) drove that.”
Watson’s words initially appeared to fall flat after Brisbane snatched an 81-80 lead when Eric Hipwood opened the fourth term with a goal.
But Merrett and Watson again regained midfield control as Essendon kicked the final five goals to seal a 17.9 (111) to 12.12 (84) win.
Watson finished with a game high 34 touches, Merrett helped himself to 32 and Fantasia booted five goals, including one after the siren to further blow out the scoreline.
Fantasia’s goal tally is already nine after two games.
He complemented Joe Daniher (three goals) and Cale Hooker (two) on Saturday in an Essendon forward line Worsfold warned would only get better.
“To hit the scoreboard is great, but he does a lot of other stuff as well and (he’s) fitting in with a forward line now,” Worsfold said of Fantasia.
“They’ve got a lot of work to do to really get their chemistry, but they’re working hard on that now.”