A “devastated” Jobe Watson has broken his silence on the ‘Essendon 34’s’ guilty verdict, revealing the players are exploring all their legal options in response to the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s decision.
The Bombers captain was one of the 12 current Essendon players to receive a 12-month ban on Tuesday, and has been the public face for the players through the ordeal.
“We are struggling to come to terms with this decision and feel it does not support the players’ firm belief that we are innocent,” he wrote in a statement on behalf of the 34 former and current Bombers players.
“Our legal team is conducting a thorough review of the decision and will explore any avenues available to us.
“The players would like to thank our families, our friends, our members and supporters for their unwavering support.
“We would also like to thank the AFLPA (AFL Players Association) for their ongoing support throughout the last three years.”
On Tuesday, legal experts told The New Daily that the 34 players banned under the WADA code for anti-doping violations have a very high chance of successful civil litigation against Essendon.
Monash University senior law lecturer Dr Eric Windholz said the players’ best chance of a payout would be from Essendon for a “breach of contract”.
“The players are [were] employees of the Essendon Football Club and they are employed under an employment contract called the Standard Players Contract,” Dr Windholz said.
However Dr Windholz said suing the AFL would be less likely to succeed. He also indicated an appeal to the CAS on the decision would very likely not stand.
The Brownlow Medal question
Watson’s doomed pleas of innocence and year off from football are not his only worries.
The question of his 2012 Brownlow Medal remains – should he keep it given he is guilty of doping that year, as adjudged by the Court of Arbitration for sport?
During a press conference on Tuesday AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan said Watson had the opportunity to present to the AFL Commission the reasons why he should keep the medal awarded to the “best and fairest” player each season.
The commission will meet in February and Watson “will be invited to address the commission as potentially with other relevant parties”, McLachlan said.
It meant his Brownlow Medal win was under review.
However, many pundits believe Watson should have already been stripped of the medal by the league, or have given it back to the AFL on his own accord.
The runners-up in that year’s count were Richmond’s Trent Cotchin and Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell, who tied on 26 votes, four behind Watson.
Essendon chairman Lindsay Tanner was adamant Watson should keep the medal.
“I would anticipate the club will in some form make a submission to the AFL in line with that sentiment,” he said.
“But that’s ultimately going to be a matter the board will have to deal with in due course.”
– with ABC