Essendon defender Michael Hurley believes Jobe Watson has overcome the disappointment of handing back his 2012 Brownlow Medal.
Watson’s AFL career appeared in doubt after Bombers coach John Worsfold admitted his passion for the game had waned after returning his Brownlow Medal on November 11.
The 200-game veteran’s difficult decision pre-empted an AFL Commission meeting convened to debate stripping him of the award after he was one of 34 past and present Essendon players banned for anti-doping violations arising from the club’s 2012 supplements program.
But Hurley, who had his famous beard shaved for charity on Monday, told reporters Watson seemed like his old self again after weeks of soul searching.
“Obviously, it was a pretty tough time for Jobe and his family,” Hurley said.
“But I’ve noticed just lately, just over the last two or three days, he’s really sparked up and looks like his old self.
“I think the support that he’s got I hope that it was enough to get through that situation and moving forward he can be positive.”
Hurley even backed the 31-year-old to resume the captaincy taken on by Brendon Goddard on interim basis in his absence.
“I think he definitely could,” he said.
“(But) whether or not that’s the plan Jobe has in mind or is something he wants to do … the way it looks next year, I’m not sure.”
Hurley raised nearly $36,000 for the MAD Foundation to go towards the purchase of equipment for five-year-old for cerebral palsy sufferer Rye Johnson.
The star defender wasn’t sure about the symbolism of renewal in shaving off the beard he grew while he served a season-long ban, but he believes Essendon “feels like a better football club” than the one he left in January.
The 10 players who returned to the club on November 7 after serving their suspensions will remain on modified training programs until at least Christmas.
“It’s been a bit of a shock to the system,” Hurley admitted.
“My body’s felt pretty sore, I’m starting to feel a bit old, but I’ll get there.”