CARLTON great Robert Walls has paid tribute to the recently retired Jobe Watson, claiming the star on-baller was the sole figure that gave Essendon players and fans hope during the clubs’ darkest days.
Watson racked up 20 disposals and five clearances in his final game on Saturday as his Bombers were thrashed by the Sydney Swans in an elimination final.
The emotional 32-year-old, along with fellow Bomber James Kelly, received a guard of honour from both clubs as he walked off the SCG.
It signalled the end of a rollercoaster AFL career for Watson, which reached its pinnacle in 2012 when he was awarded the Brownlow Medal before handing the same medal back four years later after he and 33 other past and present Bombers were suspended for doping.
Walls said he viewed Watson in “three different ways”, firstly marvelling at how he developed into one of the game’s best midfielders.
“As a player, he struggled early, but he made himself into one of the very best midfielders in the competition,” Walls told Fox Sports News’ AFL Tonight.
“He was hard-nosed, he got the hard ball, he was in the heavy traffic, he became All-Australian, he won best and fairests, he was a really good player.
Walls said Watson then “became a statesman” during the fallout to the Essendon supplements saga, as he was one of the few figures at the club that stood up in tough times.
“Don’t forget the president gave it away, the CEO gave it away, the senior coach went, assistant coaches went, the football manager went — Jobe was left holding the baby,” Walls said.
“He was the one person who gave the players and the supporters hope. He was cool and he was calm and he was considered in everything that he did. That’s his legacy at his club as much as anything.”
However Walls said he also couldn’t help but sympathise with Watson throughout the 2017 season, with the Blues premiership great claiming he witnessed Watson lose some love for footy.
“I felt a bit sad for him, because I reckon in the end it got the better of him,” Walls said.
“He wanted to come back after the 12 months and play a year, go out on his terms. But in the end, I think his love for the game fell away and you can’t blame him.”
He has already indicated his intention to return to New York City and work as a barista.
“I just wish him well in whatever he intends to do now,” Walls said.