Watson confirms AFL return for Essendon

Essendon star Jobe Watson doesn’t know how he’ll perform in the AFL next season or whether he will remain captain of his club.

But after a “liberating” gap year, the 31-year-old confirmed on Friday he would be back to continue his decorated career with the Bombers next season.

Watson was one of 34 past and present Essendon players banned this season because of the club’s 2012 supplements scandal, and the last of the 12 current Bombers to declare his plans.

He said if he’d made an earlier decision, it would have been different.

“Certainly when I left I didn’t think I would be back playing AFL,” he said.

“At different times I have sort of been waning and wondering what I was going to do.

“I leant either way for a long time.”

Watson said he needed to escape the AFL bubble to work it all out, spending time in New York City and on holidays abroad to clear his head.

“I had to get away and think about what I wanted to do with life,” he said.

“I came back and wanted to see how I was feeling when I was back in Melbourne.”

After talking with “really inspiring” coach John Worsfold this week, the spiritual leader of the Essendon Football Club officially became a born-again Bomber.

But Watson said he hadn’t thought about the captaincy, which will be subject to a player vote next year.

And he doesn’t know about recapturing his best playing form, despite a commitment to fitness on his sabbatical.

“I’m incredibly vain and New York is a competitive city so you’ve got to look your best when you’re in New York,” he laughed.

“Even if I wasn’t going to play (in 2017) I prepared myself to come back and play.

“I didn’t want the decision not to be mine and I felt it was a disservice not to come back in the best possible shape.

“The first time I touched a footy was when I got back here so I don’t know how I’m going to go.”

Watson’s return means the club has secured 10 of the 12 banned Bombers, with only Michael Hibberd hoping to find a new AFL home at Melbourne and Tayte Pears pursuing a career in fire fighting.

But the saga is not over for Watson.

The 34 players have an ongoing appeal in the Swiss legal system, and once resolved, the AFL Commission will go ahead with deciding whether he should keep his 2012 Brownlow Medal.

Essendon remain adamant Watson should retain the medal but the likelihood is he will be stripped of the honour.

“I’m at peace with where it has gone and where I’m at,” he said of the long-running saga.

Watson’s return was cheered by fellow teammates, with stand-in skipper Brendon Goddard saying he was “over the moon”.

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