Brownlow Medal returned

Jobe Watson should be congratulated for his decision to return the 2012 Brownlow Medal. It goes without saying that it took a lot of courage to give up the game’s highest individual award.

He is quoted as saying:

“If there is a question …. as to whether the 2012 award is tainted, the fairest and best thing to do is to give it back.”

The irony is that he deserves a medal for his action.

This will hopefully bring to a close a sad chapter in the club’s and the AFL’s history. I hope the club moves on. I hope that Watson wins the award next year.

Watson’s leadership on this issue is a shining example for the club and all football followers. There are times when someone has to put up their hand and make the hard decision.

In 2013, the club was torn as to how to respond to breach allegations. Their internal enquiry revealed mismanagement of the supplements program. Was the club guilty of wrong-doing? Could ASADA or WADA prove any breach? There are no straightforward answers to these questions.

It is also ironic that Cronulla who were also misled by Danks, accepted a short suspension and this year won their first premiership, while the Essendon players watched the season from the sidelines.

Do we need to be proved wrong to accept responsibility? If the Police each year, issued a speeding fine to each driver because at some time during the year the driver had exceeded the speed limit, would you pay the fine? Have you exceeded the speed limit? Probably, yes. Can the Police prove it? No.

The example is trite, I know. But look at how this has played out for Essendon. They have been harshly punished. Perhaps too harshly. I believe this is what happens , when you “take on the system”. The system, will bite back.

I’m a lawyer and stand by the presumption of innocence and the burden of proof.

But as a lawyer I know that the legal system is sometimes a blunt instrument. Essendon was confronted with a situation that contained many difficult issues, many areas of grey. I don’t believe the club could say, hand on heart, there had been no wrongdoing. Instead they put the system to the proof, which was their right.

However, sometimes, someone needs to think ahead. Consider what is important. Make the difficult decision.

What was important in this case were the players. They should have been paramount in everyone’s thinking. If this meant that the coach and his staff and perhaps management accepted responsibility to spare the players, then so be it. This did not occur. Self-interest prevailed, the system was challenged and the club and players lost the challenge.

The 2016 season will be remembered for two significant events involving medals. Firstly, Beveridge giving up his premiership medal to Bulldog captain Bob Murphy. And, of course, Watson returning his medal to the AFL.

Bravo Beveridge! Bravo Watson!

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