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Tim Watson's conflicted role in Essendon saga

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Essendon player's mother is appalled

A woman claiming to be the mother of a 20-year-old Essendon player says the club treated her son like 'a guinea pig' and says the ongoing supplement scandal is 'intolerable'.

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"Sarah", the emotional talkback radio caller and Essendon player parent who described the invidious position in which some of that club's footballers still find themselves, has painted an alternative picture to the one portrayed all season by the Bombers' most high-profile parent, Tim Watson.

Triple M remained certain after the Thursday morning call that "Sarah" was who she claimed to be — a shattered and concerned mother ordered by the club to keep her fears to herself.

With every dramatic hour that has unfolded since the AFL revealed the horrifying charge sheet against Essendon has come growing doubts and worse among the Bombers players and their families. "Sarah" symbolised them all.

Tim Watson's Essendon drugs 'fears allayed'

Until now only Watson has spoken publicly as a parent, and although he continues to insist he does not see himself as the parents' spokesman, the reality is he has been the only one. When he stepped out of the Tuesday night address to the players' families and virtually declared "nothing to see here", the AFL and the players' union lost patience.

It is one thing to support your old club but quite another to be the face of concerned parents whom the rest of the football community was starting to see were having the wool pulled over their eyes.

Unfortunately for all the other parents Watson is terribly conflicted, as he freely admits, and until now a member of Cult Hird. Like other cult members he sniffed conspiracy at every turn, believing the AFL somehow to be at fault from the start and bought into every new wacky piece of evidence put forward by recruited witnesses — most recently the Essendon medical consultant Andrew Garnham.

Garnham addressed the players' families on Tuesday night while an interview with him was simultaneously broadcast on Fox Footy, a channel overseen by one of coach James Hird's closest friends and devoted followers Rod Law.

For the AFL and the players' union it is one thing to mislead the media and key players such as Dr Bruce Reid with your conspiracy theories but quite another to mislead players and their families.

 

 

Unlike others, Watson has refrained from attacking Hird doubters — certainly publicly. And he frequently admitted his conflict. On his SEN breakfast program on Thursday there were even signs that Watson was taken aback at the previous day's events. He agreed for the first time that perhaps Hird should step aside from coaching due to the distraction of fighting to save his reputation.

But Watson, for all the difficulties of his compromised position and for all the hurt he must be feeling for son Jobe, was the wrong person to speak on behalf of the parents — something he did not see himself as doing but something the club asked him to do.

Not only are James Hird, Mark Thompson, Danny Corcoran and Bruce Reid his friends but Watson was also instrumental in the secret plot to place Hird and Thompson back together at the club. And he is the father of the captain, the club's champion and best player who during this season re-signed a lucrative new four-year deal.

He could never hope to represent the psyches of less secure Essendon players. Yes, Jobe Watson stood to lose his Brownlow but never his livelihood or his place in the senior side.

Watson's most moving performance came back in late June, when he sat along side Bruce McAvaney and moved many parents as he explained the many emotions going through his mind following his son's appearancer on On the Couch. He was a father first and foremost and the Brownlow did not define his son. There is no doubt the Watson family has suffered like all the families of Essendon players.

One player manager of some lesser lights at Essendon said on Thursday: "If those [unsigned or irregular senior] players didn't toe the party line they were frightened they would lose their position or not get another contract.

"The players' parents are still too scared to stand up and say: 'This is unacceptable'. They fear for their sons. What if he goes to work and feels isolated by the group because of what his parents said? What if no one talks to him? They've all been told to say nothing.

"Even when the AFLPA guys spoke to the players there were some in the group who questioned them when they talked about potential penalties. It was like: 'Are you with us or against us?' There were definitely some divisions.

"Things are starting to happen now though. The tide is turning and that happened when the AFL released the charges."

Essendon's institutionalised response to the 2011 and 2012 drugs scandal has reeked of tribalism from the start. The club and its henchmen have frequently and nastily attacked its detractors. The stench of cover-up has pervaded the Bombers all season, ever since it was revealed its players were forced to sign secrecy contracts regarding the drugs program.

But those brainwashed are showing signs of being de-programmed. The players' union boss Matt Finnis will likely receive a more united hearing when he takes the players Essendon allowed to be used as guinea pigs last season through the ASADA interim report, as he has been permitted to do.

Several of the more involved and influential player managers now have the ASADA report. One agent confirmed to Fairfax Media on Thursday that a class action could be launched against the club - and leading that charge were the families of those 34 players reported to have been injected with the unknown and unprescribed substance bought in Mexico.

And Tim Watson? You would have sworn listening to his radio show early on Thursday that he had read the AFL charge sheet against Essendon. And truly taken it all in.

146 comments

  • And what about Alex Browne's parents? And Stewart Crameri's dad? Forget to mention them Caro?

    Commenter
    SMZ
    Date and time
    August 22, 2013, 3:19PM
    • Crameri's fathers comments were made last week, before the charges came out. Would be interesting to see if he has changed his opinion.

      Commenter
      TT
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 3:49PM
    • EFC’s media plan for August:
      Do everything it takes behind the scenes to ensure that the details of the charges are kept confidential under threat of legal action. Then use popular club personalities to bemoan the “innuendo” and “hearsay” and absence of facts available to the public.
      Finally, use this lack of information to muddy the waters and suggest that there’s no substance to the accusations.
      If the facts come out – sue for denial of “natural justice”. If the facts stay secret – then suggest that the AFL must be hiding the truth.
      Well done AD for calling the bluff.

      Commenter
      Realist
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 3:52PM
    • Wow. How about you do your job and actually investigate this mess (like a real journalist) instead of just going to your mates at the AFL for your information.

      This women could be anyone. Her thoughts are as biassed and meaningless as your own. Notice how rational parents have been happy to name themselves? Your reporting is so one sided it is an absolute disgrace. You have reveled nothing that has not come through the spin factory at the AFL.

      I will be boycotting the Age until Caroline Wilson moves on, what a joke.

      Commenter
      Heff
      Location
      Tokyo
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 3:57PM
    • yeah, notice how the people on Essendon side are happy to be named.

      who is this person? Andrew Demetrious wife? what a joke

      Commenter
      STAND BY HIRD
      Location
      Tokyo
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 4:01PM
    • Gee CW,1st of all can you please confirm if the caller was really the mother of an Essendon football player now once you have done that then please feel free to write about this matter.
      CW there is a real strong rumour on the street that you put someone up to make the call is there any truth in it CW !

      Commenter
      ultra
      Location
      Mel
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 4:02PM
    • Everyone's entitled to their own take on the evidence presented. Personally, I was more shocked by Browne's parents' response than that of the caller to Triple M.

      Dunno -- maybe the tipping point for me in the statement of charges was the bit about the players being injected with a drug used to treat muscular dystrophy, that was left behind by a patient who obtained it from Mexico and left it lying around the clinic in South Yarra. WTF?

      C'mon Bomber fans -- look past the minutiae, ignore the not-so-clever word wrangling, see through the dangerous tactics of Little and Hird to salvage the club's quickly-sinking reputation and ask yourselves this: is this the way you want sport played?

      Commenter
      Glenn of Blackburn
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 4:09PM
    • What else do you expect SMZ
      Of course Caro was going to leave out that Browne's parents relied exactly what Tim Watson has said otherwise her opinion in this article is meaningless

      Commenter
      jdistaso
      Location
      donvale
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 4:16PM
    • Essendon fans still living in denial, it would seem. Ask themselves this, what happens, down the track, if some of these young Don players develop serious side effects from these insidious drugs they were virtually coerced into taking ? Say,in a few years ? They may well sue both Hird, and Essendon for millions for damages, and they would be perfectly entitled to do so. If I had a young kid on their list id by worried sick, over all this and possible side effects from this Mexican crap etc. Watson senior is part of the Hird cult, and he wont say a word against him, but the other parents have a voice too.

      Commenter
      Piesnchess
      Location
      Mt Evelyn
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 4:19PM
    • Caroline Wilson is only saying what everybody is saying. And Caroline Wilson deserves credit for standing up to these bullies when she alone called for Hird's head 6 months ago! Unlike most of the silly so called AFL news experts.
      How stupid blind and brain dead does Tim Watson appear in all this. He keeps putting the club ahead of the facts. That poor Mum on Triple M this morning is speaking with heartfelt common sense.

      Tim Watson will not come out well from this. He should just read the sport news not comment. He appear caught up in the Essendon 'Cult' and the AFL is out to get us rubbish.

      Commenter
      DifferentLens
      Date and time
      August 22, 2013, 4:23PM

More comments

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The 'mystery letter' penned by Essendon club doctor Bruce Reid surfaced with a thud on Monday, prompting James Hird to say its release was designed to damage his reputation.

Club figures blew the whistle on supplements but no action followed

Several people at Essendon raised alarms about aspects of the club's supplements program but - according to the AFL's charge sheet - the concerns were never adequately followed up, even by those who had expressed them.

Little's 'reprehensible' claim over key drug contested by AFL

The AFL has questioned why it is being blamed by Essendon for not declaring its understanding of the status of AOD-9604, one of the contentious drugs in the explosive supplements scandal.

AFL presidents back league's stance on Essendon

The AFL's 17 other clubs have called on Essendon to avoid fighting its bitter battle with the league in the courts, and have offered their unanimous confidence in the AFL's handing of the dispute.

Players' welfare forgotten: mother

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Tim Watson 'disgusted' by claims

Essendon great reacts angrily to suggestions he has acted improperly in relation to Essendon supplements scandal.

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