Like his club, he started the AFL season fast. The difference was Essendon skipper Jobe Watson held on until the end to win the AFL’s Brownlow Medal on Monday night.
Watson polled 30 votes to claim the AFL’s top individual honour, his run-away win confirmed when he held an unassailable seven-vote lead with two rounds left.
He held out Hawthorn veteran Sam Mitchell, who showed up the All Australian selectors who left him out of their team by polling 26 votes, equal runner-up with Richmond’s fast-finishing young gun Trent Cotchin.
Watson became the first player to win the Brownlow in a season in which his club missed the finals since 1999, when Hawthorn’s Shane Crawford triumphed.
He joined his coach, James Hird, who won the medal in 1996, as the Bombers’ most recent Brownlow winners and became the sixth Essendon player overall to claim the AFL’s top individual award.
Winning 11 of their first 15 games – was reflected in their skipper’s strong start to the count.
By the end of round 13, he was already on 23 votes, eight clear of nearest rivals, 2009 winner Gary Ablett and Adelaide’s Scott Thompson.
By round 16 he was up to 26 votes, enough to win the award in five of the past 10 years.
But while Essendon faltered late in their season, losing their last seven games to miss the finals, Watson was able to hold on, picking up another three votes in Essendon’s round 19 loss to Adelaide then one more in the following round.
He has now achieved something his father, 307-game Bombers great Tim Watson, who played in three premierships, could not manage, with Tim having not polled more than 17 Brownlow votes in a season.
Jobe Watson, 27, has played 154 games with the Bombers.
The All Australian centreman this year, he won the club’s best and fairest award in 2009 and 2010 and is favoured to do so again this year.
His Brownlow win caps a steady rise for a player who managed a total of just 13 senior games in his first three seasons at the club, when he copped criticism over his fitness levels and kicking.
In his fourth season, 2006, he was runner-up in Essendon’s best and fairest count.