Jobe Watson: Why do we apply the ‘Good Bloke’ test?

Picture if you will, a hypothetical situation surrounding a current AFL footballer.

A young, dynamic midfielder in a high profile and successful Melbourne based club. After starting slowly, this player is at the top of his game. His leadership and impact on games, not to mention sheer weight of possessions, see him eventually awarded the highest individual award, the Brownlow Medal.

He has an awkward running style and has struggled with issues of weight in the past. He is the son of a revered player. Much has, and is, expected of him and whilst surrounded by exciting talent, he has often been the ‘go to’ person in blockbuster games, including the Anzac Day clash.

Many people have an opinion about him, based on what they see in the media. This player has also been involved in allegations of drug use and has used the television media to make statements about these allegations.

So far, the above applies equally to Dane Swan as it does to Jobe Watson.

Where it departs is that the common perception amongst many (although not all) in the media, is that Watson is a good bloke, nice person, “we all know and love him” and that these reasons alone should be enough to warrant not contemplating him losing his individual honour.

It would be interesting to see what the reaction would be if it was Swan facing this situation.

Swan, for his tatts, casual attitude, apparent ‘brat pack’ tendencies and refusal to be a role model or see AFL football as the most important thing in his life, would not, I’d argue face the same level of immediate and wide-spread sympathy as Watson has.

I know as much as anyone who reads the papers about the Essendon and Watson situation, and whilst I have my own opinions, they are not based on as much scientific evidence, concern for the ongoing brand of the AFL or the potential for legal action that will eventually impact any decision that is made by the AFL based on WADA and ASADA findings.

However, the ‘good bloke test’ many are seeking to introduce into the argument seems to have no basis of logic. John Fahey has been adamant that character is not a factor and these things are more black and white than this.

Lance Armstrong was trying to cure cancer; it didn’t mean he wasn’t a bit of a prick and a lot of a drug cheat.

Watson appears to me, as someone who has never met him, to be a thoroughly likeable bloke. Swan’s less my cup of tea, but that’s me. But it is fascinating to contemplate how we’d react if the roles were reversed.

We all have heroes and villains in sport. Football, like all sport, needs its white hats and black hats, like a pantomime.

But we don’t like it when the good ones shift camp. “Say it ain’t so Joe” is our reaction.

We also feel we know the players intimately by seeing them play, hearing them interviewed and taking in the views of others within the football community. And we make judgements about whether they are nice people, kind to kittens and don’t cheat on their taxes based on that.

There’s no doubt that to be stripped of an honour like the Brownlow, and have history record you that way, would be a terrible thing to happen.

But, if that’s the outcome based on fact, then no amount of ‘he’s a good bloke’ should be allowed to be factored in.

In matters such as this, there can be mitigating factors, like admissions of guilt, willingness to cooperate, genuine unawareness of illegal action despite appropriate checking and impact of the substance taken on performance.

The character of the individual though is a dangerous area to start to take into account, and we as a football community should prepare ourselves for it to be set aside in matters such as this.

About Sean Curtain

"He was born with a gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad". First line of 'Scaramouche' by Sabatini, always liked that.

Comments

  1. PeterSchumacher says:

    A brave “write” and I have to agree!

  2. Peter_B says:

    Well said Sean. I read Gideon Haigh’s wonderful “On Warne” book trying to understand how someone could simultaneously pass both the ‘good bloke” and “bit of a dickhead” test.
    I think it came down to you have to be “a bit of a dickhead” on occasions to qualify as a ‘good bloke’ in Australian society. I think the only requirement is that you only harm women (not your mates) while being ‘a bit of a dickhead’. Bob Hawke is the obvious example of someone who was forgiven everything (and still largely is) until he got ‘up himself’ and forgot his Labor roots and mates, chasing the big bucks in Asian consultancies. Hoges and Russel Crowe are others who come to mind for teetering on both sides of the line.
    You can be a good bloke AND a bit of a dickhead – and still drink comfortably in front bars. When you are a good bloke BUT a bit of dickhead – they look at you strangely.
    I fear that Jobe’s naivety/ruthlessness may seem him pass the ‘up himself’ test and teeter over into BUT territory. What a wicked web we weave, when Bomber flatters to deceive.

  3. Fantastic read Sean. You’ve summarised our tendency to feel more empathy with ‘good blokes’ than ‘knobs’ when they run into trouble beautifully. It’s a bit of a national trait I think, and I’m as guilty of it as anyone. In a bit of kismet I just posted a piece on my site about Jobe’s good bloke tendencies and how they affect my own view of his current conundrum (http://presentationnight.net – and I apologise if that looks like tacky self promotion, it’s not my intention). Our expectations of young footballers are so incredibly high that when they make mistakes, whether knowingly or not, they’re judged extremely harshly for doing dumb things that most of us get away with due to an unfortunate lack of footballing talent (speaking only for myself of course.) That doesn’t take away from the fact that Watson may well be found to be guilty of taking a banned substance, and if so, will have to pay the penalty, I guess it’s just the softer side of our human nature and compassion kicking in wishing it wasn’t so. Cheers, and thanks for another great piece.

  4. G’day Andy, I haven’t read you piece yet, but we can get it up on our site if you are looking for an immediate audience. Your call. Cheers, JTH

  5. The comparison to Dane Swan is most valid Sean, I would imagine a few bottles on top of the chorus of boos would have been sent in his direction in the same situation. Nor would various commentators be so sympathetic towards Jobe, nor as expressly disappointed as they were at his treatment.

    That said, Jobe does come across as an eminately ‘good bloke’, like his father, so the diluted reaction in some quarters is understandable. The shock for me wasn’t so much admitting to inadvertently being injected with AOD, it was the comment around his own surprise at being injected so many times (with anything). Just amazed that such a guy would be so trusting or so willing to go down that path to get an edge. Maybe his long, deep affiliation with the club clouded his usual clear thinking.

  6. Btw, nice blog Andy.

  7. I’d love to John, cheers, I’ll get it over shortly sir. Andy

  8. Andy

    Great article and agree, I’d hate to be judged by what I did in my early 20s and I can’t imagine how I would have been if you added talent and money and football fame to that reciepe. No issue with self-promotion, it’s a great site and many great points made.

    Peter

    Yes, I think you need to be seen to be able to take the p155 out of yourself, to get that good bloke/dickhead balance. Nice Shakespeare line too

    JD

    What worries me is a fit, smart footballer in a very strict diet and health and fitness environment who thinks taking a tablet designed to reduce obesity is OK. When if he checked, wouldn’t he ask why this was needed. And if the answer was that it would give them/him a fitness edge, I would have though that’s when the warning bells would go off. Maybe too trusting, maybe niave, but I fear the tide is turning for them at Windy Hill.

    I am no Pie fan, but I think we’d be more up in arms if it was a ‘bad boy’.

  9. Even if Jobe was as saintly as Fred Hollows and Mother Teresa, he’s still a trasgressor; as he’s already admitted. All this good bloke stuff is inmaterial. I think its timely that you’ve brought this up Sean, coz alot of people are playing the good bloke card about him keeping his brownlow. It, of course, doesn’t come into play. The brownlow wasn’t won on a level playing field and therefore should be stripped. As for him being a good bloke, he certainly comes across as one. All the same, I don’t find myself having sympathy for him. He actively or through poor judgement, participated in a program to get an edge over his rivals and in doing so, cost someone their rightful place on the brownlow podium last year. For me, finding sympathy for someone under those circumstances is a stretch.

  10. The Wrap says:

    That worries me too Sean – why a player who runs whatever clicks a game as an on-baller, and probably at least as much again through the week needs a course of anti-obesetity procedures. C’mon. I think Elvis says it best –

    You can burn my house,
    Steal my car,
    Drink my liquor
    From an old fruitjar.
    But stay offa my blue suede shoes.

    They keep telling us out at Melrose Drive that all has not yet been revealed. I don’t doubt that for a moment.

  11. Stephanie Holt says:

    To the good bloke test, add the decent/successful bloke test applied to Hird. Golden boy – a Watsonesque beloved son in his playing days – matures into untouchable coach, at least as long as his team keeps winning. Still pondering the logic that a dramatic win or two was taken in many quarters to mean that his head wouldn’t roll over the drug scandal.

  12. Fantastic article Sean,

    I have been puzzling over this quite a bit. My view on maintaining the integrity of sport makes me think that the book should be thrown at the Essendon Football Club and players such as Jobe Watson. But I have enormous respect for Watson who I would otherwise see as an exemplar of an AFL footballer. I feel that he was but a pawn in a greater scandal and, thus, does not deserve a punishment that would be detrimental to his career. If he was Dane Swan or Stephen Milne I would definitely be less sympathetic. The hypocrisy of this does not escape me.

    I think, ultimately, the greater good has to be thought of before individuals. I don’t want to see sport where taking any ‘supplement’ is seen as normal. The use of performance-enhancing drugs is one of the more despicable acts in sport that can have a cancerous effect (look at cycling!). Therefore, all players, including Jobe, must be clearly punished. It’s tough, but I don’t think there is any other option that will maintain the integrity of the game.

    In summary, I agree with you from start to finish. The application of the rules can not be selective in regard to character and public opinion.

    Nice work,

    Liam

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