Mark Thompson fears the Essendon supplements saga could prompt captain Jobe Watson to retire from the AFL.
Thompson, Essendon’s interim senior coach last year, says the ongoing anti-doping process has taken its toll on the 2012 Brownlow Medallist.
Watson admitted on Friday night that WADA’s decision to appeal against the AFL anti-doping tribunal finding had weighed on him.
“This has whacked him right in the gob and it wouldn’t surprise me if he just said, ‘Yeah, I’ve had enough’. It wouldn’t surprise me at all,” Thompson told 3AW on Saturday.
“He’s been the spokesman for the player group and the length of time (the saga has continued on), I think, has just got to him.
“If there’s no end, if it just keeps going, I don’t think anyone would want to be involved in that.”
Watson and Thompson have been key figures in the Essendon supplements issue.
After a controversial joint AFL-ASADA investigation into Essendon’s 2012 supplements program, 34 current or former players at the club were charged with anti-doping offences.
Thompson was an Essendon assistant coach in 2012 and took over the team last year while James Hird served a 12-month AFL suspension.
Earlier this year, the AFL anti-doping tribunal found the “Essendon 34” not guilty but WADA have decided to take their cases to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
That appeal could well drag into next year.
Watson admitted WADA’s decision had affected him.
He had season-ending shoulder surgery after the heavy round-14 loss to St Kilda, his 200th AFL match.
“I had some moments where I wasn’t enjoying playing,” he told Channel Seven on Friday.
“I guess it stems back to what happened at the start of the year and given what we’ve gone through I think we deserved to move on.
“It’s very difficult to have closure on anything until it’s behind (us) and unfortunately it’s not.”
Watson added the injury had come at a good time for him, saying he needed some breathing room.
The next step in the saga will come on Friday, when sports scientist Stephen Dank decides whether he will appeal against an AFL lifetime ban.
Dank was the architect of Essendon’s 2012 supplements program.