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The Brownlow of Jobe

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Chief sports columnist and associate editor with The Age

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Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson polled in a record 14 games.

Brownlow medallist Jobe Watson polled in a record 14 games. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

IN out-staying a packed field to win the Brownlow Medal last night, Essendon captain Jobe Watson became the second player in four years to upstage a more famous and feted father in this way. The previous usurper, Gary Ablett in 2009, was one of the fruitless pursuers of Watson last night. To add to the internecine effect, Ablett in his year was spurred to what proved to be his medal-winning performance by a critique from Watson senior about selfishness.

The Watsons are a close and affectionate family, and Jobe's story stands in delicious contrast to his father's. Tim made his debut at 15 and played in three premierships, separated by a short retirement. His best Brownlow Medal performance was 17 votes in 1980, when he was just 19.

Jobe, 27, was drafted out of school, but took a long time to establish himself. Kevin Sheedy, for his last game as coach of Essendon in 2007, dropped him and made it clear that he would trade him if he could. Remembering that watershed, Watson said: ''I was probably naive as to the expectations of being an AFL footballer. Pretty sheltered lifestyle. (Sheedy) said if you're not blessed with pace - which I'm not - you have to be incredibly tough, skilful and really smart.''

Essendon footballer Jobe Watson after winning the 2012 Brownlow Medal. Click for more photos

It's Watson's Brownlow

Essendon's Jobe Watson wins the 2012 Brownlow Medal. The official finishing margin was four votes with Watson (30), Sam Mitchell and Trent Cotchin (both 26) tying for second spot. Photo: Paul Rovere

Tim chimed in at the time. ''Dad said 'you don't have to do this if you don't want to, but at the moment you're not doing much','' Watson recalled. '''If you want to do it, you might as well pull your finger out, because it doesn't last forever.''' Reflecting last night, he said: ''(Dad) knew which buttons to push and how to push them.''

Watson plumbed his soul, redoubled his efforts and is now officially the best player in the AFL. In the first 13 rounds this year, he failed to poll only against Collingwood on Anzac Day. In modern football, and among footballers, consistency is prized among all other virtues. He polled more sparsely later in the season as Essendon faded badly, but his lead was enough. He earned votes in 14 games in all, a record.

Watson's winning tally was 30 votes. Joint runners-up were Hawthorn's Sam Mitchell and Richmond's Trent Cotchin (26). Next were last year's winner, Collingwood's Dane Swan and Adelaide's Scott Thompson (25). Ablett polled 24.

The quirky twist on the night were the votes awarded to St Kilda's Jason Blake and Brisbane's Ben Hudson, formerly of the Bulldogs, who each polled their first Brownlow votes in long careers, 12 years for Blake and eight for Hudson. AFL chief executive Andrew Demetriou paused in the vote count to congratulate Blake - but called him James, as in the American tennis player. Such is the journeyman's lot.

The medal is for the boys, but the night is for the girls. It could not be tarted up any further except by dispensing with the tedium of the count altogether and proceeding straight from red carpet to the blotchy faces.

In some ways, this night was a return to old-fashioned values. The carpet, blue these last two years, was red again. Last year's lazy susan blessedly was dispensed with, leaving guests and viewers less giddy. The big questions were addressed, like this one to Collingwood's Scott Pendlebury: ''Did you wash your hair tonight?'' And this one to Nick Naitanui: ''Are you going to cut your hair?'' The word ''stunning'' was bandied about so often that it became synonymous with ''numbing''.

Non-attending players flocked to Twitter to register their disapproval, calling the night a ''joke'', red carpet interviewers Peter Morrissey and Alex Perry ''flogs'' and scorning them for not knowing names. North's Todd Goldstein summed it up: ''The Brownlow red carpet coverage is becoming unwatchable. Let them enjoy their night. Who will want to go with this sort of coverage?''

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