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Brownlow must go if 'fairest' criterion to be upheld

Jobe Watson with his Brownlow medal last year.

Jobe Watson with his Brownlow medal last year. Photo: Penny Stephens

Regardless of outcomes from the ongoing ASADA investigation into Essendon, this much is now absolutely clear.

By his own admission, Jobe Watson was injected with a substance banned by WADA during last season. And he won the Brownlow Medal. That award, the game's most time-honoured and prestigious, is for the ''fairest and best'' player. Watson must surely forfeit it.

Essendon's drug crisis

Essendon's drug crisis Photo: Jim Pavlidis

According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word ''fairest'' in this context carries two relevant descriptors: ''equitable'' and ''according to the rules''. Both of these applications disqualify the Essendon skipper from eligibility during the 2012 season. Watson played with a banned drug in his system. The competition between him and other players was inequitable. Whether intended or not.

As for the second dictionary meaning of ''fairest'', it goes without saying that having a banned substance in one's system during competition is to not play the game ''according to the rules''. It matters not what the player's intent was or wasn't. It matters not that he may have been largely blameless. For the purposes of the 2012 Brownlow, and the difficult business of its arbitration, it would make no difference if Watson was assessed by WADA as being in the ''no fault'' category.

The inescapable fact of his admission he was using AOD-9604 during the 2012 season has to be game, set, and match. If it isn't, how can the AFL purport to have acted fairly to Sam Mitchell and Trent Cotchin, who finished in a tie for second?

How are Mitchell and Cotchin to feel at being denied football immortality by one who competed with the benefit of a banned substance? What are they to make of such issues as the loss of future contract leverage and of promotional opportunities that inevitably flow the way of a Brownlow medallist?

Of course, no player has ever been stripped of a Brownlow. Watson is the last you would expect such a fate to befall. He doesn't deserve the ignominy. Alas, ''deserve'' doesn't come into this. It has to be about what happened and what is fair to all. And it has to be about preserving the medal's integrity.

And anyway, sensitivity at how a player might be affected at such an outcome didn't cause the AFL squeamishness when Chris Grant polled the most votes but didn't win the Brownlow in 1997. Or when Corey McKernan tied with James Hird and Michael Voss in 1996. Both had been suspended during the year and the rules were clear. Grant and McKernan, like Watson, were players who didn't deserve such a bitter outcome. Both were admirably fair. But rules are rules.

Of course, we were all acquainted with the possibility of a player who had been suspended during that season polling the most Brownlow votes. We'd never pondered the obscure chance that a medallist would subsequently be embroiled in a case involving performance-enhancing drugs. But this is clear-cut. And the unavoidable reality is that this issue is far more serious than the issues that involved Grant and McKernan.

Of course, Essendon fans will be infuriated at the suggestion. No fairer player ever played the game, they will say; much more a ''fairest and best'' than the likes of Robert Dipierdomenico, Greg Williams, or Tony Liberatore. And in a broad sense, they will be right. But the above, to the best of our knowledge, competed, and outpolled their rivals in their winning years, on equal terms.

We now know - because he has admitted it - that, even though he may well have been unaware of it, Jobe Watson didn't.


  • The AFL will do what it always seems to do, bury its head and say there is nothing to see here. If they want to prove that there is at least a glimmer of integrity at the AFL, they need to act to this. All players who participated in the drug taking must be given the penalty required. I believe it was a two year ban from the game.

    At least now we'll see what the AFL's word is worth, but I fear I already know the answer.

    Bum McFluff
    Date and time
    June 26, 2013, 9:05AM
    • The vultures circle hoping for some rotted flesh.....seems an an appropriate analogy of the articles and comments about Watson.
      Reality is that while we're all too ready to come to a decision of guilt based on only facts released to the media Only ASADA has the full facts and will determine the results of the investigation, even the comments of the ex ASADA boss are irrelevant, as he is not privy to the to the investigation.
      To state that Watson is obliged to return his brownlow when the facts are NOT known, is premature. To state that Watson fails the test of 'fairest' is nonsense when the definition cannot apply until the results are in.
      If ASADA determine that Watson and Essendon are guilty then by all means dole out the appropriate punishment, until then it's all speculation, hearsay and group think.

      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 10:41AM
    • Who cares what you and I think..The AFL (Andrew Demetriou) make the rules to suit itself and what happened to the 3 Strikes rule...Oh this does not apply now Tim....Has any AFL player been charged over the 3 Strikes rule, if so, who are they.

      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 11:00AM
    • And Tim while you're at it Carlton should be stripped of their 1995 flag. Goose/gander

      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 11:13AM
    • Take it off Jobe and give it to Chris Grant.

      The J Dog
      Hall of Fame
      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 11:15AM
    • JIM, Asada will come down hard on the bombers if its all true. If they don't like what the AFL hand down as a ban they will increase the ban. Happened to the guy in the VFL. It's sad to say but the its looking more like they are in trouble but only Asada knows.

      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 11:30AM
    • Tim's article gives a rigid, all-encompassing, no taking into account of fault definition of 'fair'. Those 2 descriptors he mentions are not merely relevant, they are necessary co-requisites. If you actually looked to the definition of 'equitable', it is a word that sums up our basic conscience in deciding what is just. As its own body of law, equity in fact acts to remedy situations where rules are too harshly applied to someone (for example, if a bona fide purchaser of property takes property that has been illegally obtained by the seller, as long as they dont know this, they get to keep it, despite the original owner technically having superior right by the nemo dat rule - can't give what you don't own).

      The relevance of this then? Yes Jobe acted against the rules, technically. He did not (and still doesn't) believe that he did anything wrong, and rightly so if all this remaining confusion re AOD is anything to go by. Has he acted 'fairly', within equity? Yes, absolutely. He did not act with any form of moral turpitude. To say someone is fair is not to say that they are not negligent, this is well established at common law. We should be thankful that people like Tim are not our judges, and I'm sick of journalists flouting morals and principles without respecting how the law actually works.

      Suspend Jobe according to the written law (the Wada code), but do not tack on unequitable punishments based on some fanciful definition of a medal's criteria, or for the 'vibe of it'.

      We're all armchair lawyers apparently
      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 11:36AM
    • @JIM - "until then it's all speculation, hearsay and group think." Umm- perhaps you missed the CONFESSION of Jobe Watson. Not much "speculation" and "heresay” going on there. It’s pretty black and white. But you’re going to split hairs and cling to technicalities so much you’re starting to sound like those Demons supporters who claim they were vindicated because Demetriou refused to use the ‘T’ word when he punished them for …er… “not-tanking”. Face it. They’re screwed. Caroline Wilson was right all along. And Matty Knights is still waiting for his apology.

      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 12:04PM
    • watson was " By his own admission " the best and fairest drugged player last year

      nikraf of vic
      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 12:05PM
    • Ohhhhh "We're all armchair lawyers apparently"..... Testify! Finally I can hear someone call it as it actually is, instead of getting caught up in the mainstream media's paper flogging. Tim, get together with Caro and the rest of The Age sports team and stand accountable for your dribble, uninformed speculation and here say. Your BS which has called for jobs, heads and now Brownlow medals has resulted in this reader opting to exercise his right of taking his business elsewhere!!

      Good bye to The Age and shonky journalism!

      Date and time
      June 26, 2013, 12:07PM

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