If Jobe Watson chooses not to play on in 2017, it wouldn’t be the worst outcome for the Bombers.
Yes, Watson held things together admirably during the never-ending supplements saga, was a star player and is an Essendon person through-and-through.
But his non-committal approach to football since his recent return from New York – he still hasn’t made his mind up about if he will play again – shows where Watson’s head is at.
Time is running out for a decision to be made and, this week, coach John Worsfold explained the club’s “hurry-up” approach for Watson to finalise his decision.
“Jobe’s a wonderful part of our list if he chooses to play on and a big part we’ve got to replace if he chooses not to,” he said.
If Watson still hasn’t decided if footy is for him in 2017 then the Bombers might be better off without him.
The Bombers are primed for a serious shot at a top-eight berth next season and that is with or without Watson.
The return of the banned Dyson Heppell, Cale Hooker, Michael Hurley, Tom Bellchambers, Travis Colyer, Heath Hocking, Brent Stanton, David Myers and Ben Howlett has not only galvanised the fans – but the football club.
Those nine have all re-committed to the troubled club after their bans finally ended.
Watson’s ban is still going, as it was slightly extended after he played in the 2014 International Rules series.
An appeal – to be heard in a Swiss federal court in November – is still hanging over the Bombers and it is likely that the decision on Watson’s 2012 Brownlow Medal victory, and if it will stand, will be made based on those findings.
That could add further strain to Watson, who clearly played with baggage during the latter stages of the 2015 season.
And even though he is in excellent physical condition, as seen in a series of recently published photos, another year of headlines may not be what he wants.
Heppell, among others at Essendon, has spoken recently about his desire to have Watson back at the club.
But it’s hard to be convinced that a 31-year-old Watson would bear much influence on the Bombers’ 2017 on-field results.
Essendon have got more out of 2016 than most thought that they would because of the club’s up-and-coming talent.
Because of the bans, players like the Merrett brothers, Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Darcy Parish and Orazio Fantasia have all thrived with the increase of games played this year.
The Bombers finished well, winning two of their last three games in 2016, and the influx of senior talent has fans hoping for a run to September in 2017.
But Watson going on for another year means one of the club’s young midfielders will be deprived of games.
And right now at Essendon, they need to be thinking about their next premiership. Watson won’t be a part of that.
If he does stay on, it simply must be without the captaincy.
Others need to step up and allow Watson just to focus on his football – if he indeed wants that.
But this year the Bombers have started the slow process of moving on from the supplements saga.
There’s a lot to look forward to for the club’s fans.
And that’s why they don’t need past baggage.
Deryk Thomas also writes for footyprophet.com – football and fantasy analysis unravelled.