UPDATE Essendon captain Jobe Watson has officially announced he will return to the AFL for the 2017 season.
Watson is the last of the 12 players still on Essendon’s list – who were banned over the Bombers’ 2012 injections regime – to confirm his 2017 intentions.
Speaking to the media in Melbourne on Friday morning, Watson said his comeback wasn’t always assured.
“I had lent either way for a long time … when I left [to live in New York City] I didn’t think I’d be coming back to play AFL football,” Watson said.
“I am extremely excited to do so [return to the AFL] and really looking forward to it.
“I am really happy and content with the deciison I have made.”
After weeks of speculation about his future, Watson’s decision came after he posted a cryptic tweet on Thursday evening.
The banned Essendon players have used St Bernard’s College as a training base during their doping suspensions.
It means 10 of them will remain at the club, with Michael Hibberd likely to be traded to Melbourne and Tayte Pears deciding to pursue a career in firefighting.
Watson returned to Melbourne last week from New York where he worked as a barista.
He said he would accept what ever decision was made about his 2012 Brownlow Medal and that he had not spoken to former coach James Hird.
“I spoke to the coach [John Worsfold] earlier this week. He’s a really inspiring person and someone I really admire,” Watson said.
“I never contemplated going anywhere else, it was certainly a driving force to keep playing with these guys [at Essendon].”
The 2012 Brownlow Medallist’s ban only ended on Wednesday, a few days after his teammates, because he played in last year’s International Rules Series.
Watson dropped a massive hint on Thursday night with a humorous Twitter post.
He mate, I'm going to need to borrow these back off you pic.twitter.com/gVuFeypgdm
— Jobe Watson (@JobeWatson) September 22, 2016
Stand-in skipper Brendon Goddard was “over the moon” and said the decision on the captaincy will be up to the players.
“Over the moon. It’s obviously a really personal decision for him to make and, obviously, he had to weigh up a lot. Obviously, the time is right now to announce it,” he said on The Footy Show.
“It’s (captaincy) up to him – well, not really up to him, to be honest. It will come down to a vote from the players. He might just want to come back and play footy.”
Watson said he had not made a decision on the captaincy.
But the uncertainty continues for Watson, despite his decision to keep playing.
The 34 current and past Essendon players have made a last-ditch appeal in the Swiss legal system to have their doping bans overturned.
If that fails, as expected, the AFL Commission will then decide on whether it strips Watson of his Brownlow Medal.