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400 game milestone irrelevant in Dustin Fletcher decision, says Tim Watson

Essendon champion Dustin Fletcher's future has been a hotly debated topic.

Essendon champion Dustin Fletcher's future has been a hotly debated topic. Photo: Pat Scala

The lure of helping Dustin Fletcher become just the third player in VFL/AFL history to reach the 400-game milestone should not sway Essendon into retaining the 39-year-old on the club's list for what would be a 23rd season in 2015 in the opinion of former Bombers champion Tim Watson.

Only Michael Tuck (426 games) and Kevin Bartlett (403) have scaled the mark, but Watson played down the importance of the number.

"Under normal circumstances I would say no (he shouldn't play on). I think it's irrelevant - the figure - to be quite honest. Even though it's going to be close to 400, he's going to be the games record-holder at Essendon," Watson said on 7mate's Talking Footy on Monday night.

Fletcher has played in 14 of the Bombers' 17 games this year. After a strong start to the year, his form has tapered off, and despite an impressive round 17 showing against Collingwood, he was beaten by Western Bulldogs youngster Jake Stringer before being moved into the forward line - where he failed to make an impact - during Essendon's narrow victory on Sunday at Etihad Stadium.

The backman is on 392 games, with five home-and-away matches remaining for the season, Despite the seventh-placed Bombers' recent run of form, history suggests they would be unlikely to play the three finals required to take Fletcher to 400 games unless they can force their way into the top four. Essendon sits two games and percentage behind fourth-placed Fremantle.

Both Lenny Hayes and Dean Cox have announced their retirements in the past week despite being within striking distance of the 300-game milestone.

Watson believed that the landscape was made even more complicated by the Essendon coaching situation - with James Hird due to return next year and relieve interim coach Mark Thompson of his duties.

"James Hird is not back in the country at the moment, he's not part of that coaching panel at the moment, but he will need to be part of that decision-making process," Watson said.

Matthew Lloyd - like Watson, Hird and Thompson a former teammate of Fletcher, suggested that the veteran had done enough at this point of the season to warrant another contract.

“He’s had a better year this year than he had last year. At the moment, who’s better out of him and Tayte Pears? I’d probably say Fletcher,” Lloyd said on Channel Nine's Footy Classified.

“(But) if he gets rested or dropped in the next six weeks, maybe Fletcher will say to himself this isn’t for him.

“I don’t think he is a liability. I think he’s got some footy left in him still."

Thompson earlier told Fox Footy's AFL 360 program that the decision about playing on was "completely up to" Fletcher.

“He might decide he wants to play on, (but) I haven’t spoken to him about it. It’ll be soon, I suppose," Thompson said.

North Melbourne's 379-gamer Brent Harvey last week signed a one-year deal to play again in 2015. The 36-year-old midfielder is having an excellent year, averaging 26 disposals and one goal per game.

20 comments so far

  • Where would Essendon be without Tim Watson.....

    Commenter
    peter
    Location
    daintree
    Date and time
    July 22, 2014, 12:53PM
    • Without Jobe Watson for a start (!)

      Commenter
      Floong
      Date and time
      July 22, 2014, 1:30PM
  • Seriously Fletcher, enough is enough.

    Commenter
    razor
    Date and time
    July 22, 2014, 2:06PM
    • I'm sure he'll take your comments on board when making a decision!

      Commenter
      Catherine
      Date and time
      July 22, 2014, 3:22PM
    • Hear, Hear>

      Commenter
      Dingbat22
      Location
      Sydeney
      Date and time
      July 22, 2014, 6:02PM
  • Its amazing, wasn't to many weeks ago Fletcher was being praised for his form, even commentators were saying he had turned back the clock 15 years. Suddenly he has 1 bad game and its retirement time . Wouldn't say that of a 23 year old whose been playing well then puts in a bad game. Retirement talk should be left to after the end of the season. Then if he wants to play on the question is. Does the Coach believe he has enough to offer be it form, on field leadership and teaching with experience etc. I'd be surprised if Fletcher wanted to play on if he felt his form had dropped of anyway.

    Commenter
    Go Blues
    Date and time
    July 22, 2014, 2:27PM
    • You've had a pretty good year to date Fletch, in fact really good. Don't do yourself and the Bomber fans a disservice by retiring - you are more than good enough to play on and NEEDED in 2015. The games tally is almost irrelevant - you are still a great player.

      Commenter
      Elijah Baley
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      July 22, 2014, 3:13PM
      • Exactly. He should retire when he can no longer make best 22. And that will be a while. Sign on for next year Fletch, you are still a champion

        Commenter
        Vicki
        Date and time
        July 22, 2014, 6:45PM
    • Its irrelevant right now, as is speculation about Hird in 2014.

      The only thing that matters is playing the best team each week, winning every contest, converting every opportunity, winning each week, managing the list each week in case they play finals, and setting a goal of winning a final (which they haven't done in a decade).

      But If Fletcher is a few games short by seasons end it will be simple enough to hand them to him in 2015. But the big question is, does he deserve his place in the team every week from here to season's end?

      Don't know why Watson would want to comment other than to suggest he doesn't fit into the best 22 right now. Competition for spots is healthy. Brereton is still smarting that he was dumped by the Hawks despite 'winning that premiership' for them and being a worthy medal holder in all the others.

      Commenter
      Village Green
      Location
      Melboure
      Date and time
      July 22, 2014, 3:25PM
      • Fletcher would be already be at 400 (if not over 400) games already if wasn't a klutz and got suspended for attempted tripping or tripping during his career...

        Commenter
        Jason
        Location
        Melbourne
        Date and time
        July 22, 2014, 3:45PM

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