The 32-year-old former captain says he realised his was increasingly struggling to keep up with the speed of the game when it used to be “slow” for him.
“I know that the time is up and I think the worst thing you can do is lie to yourself and try to convince yourself that it’s not, but deep down you know,” said Watson.
It draws the curtain on an illustrious – and also controversy-hit – career after 14 seasons and Watson is hoping he can now enjoy trying to ensure the eight-placed Bombers play in the finals.
He will join one of the most illustrious retirement classes in recent memory with Luke Hodge, Nick Riewoldt, Matt Priddis, Matthew Boyd and Sam Mitchell – one of the recipients of the Brownlow medal he forfeited after the Bombers’ supplements scandal ban – all set to finish their careers at the end of this season.
Watson was one of 34 past and present Essendon players to serve a 12-month doping ban last year as a result of the club’s 2012 supplements scandal.
He was stripped of his 2012 Brownlow Medal, and the turmoil of the saga left him close to walking away from the game.
But he returned and has been in solid, if not spectacular form, despite being increasingly asked to rotate between the midfield and forward line.
He noticeably struggled during the Bombers’ win over Carlton on Saturday, finishing with just 11 disposals.
He said he would return to New York City, where he previously fled to escape the media spotlight, to continue working as a barista “at the cafe that was rated fourth-best brunch spot in New York”.
“It is called Hole in the Wall if anyone wants to know,” he said.
Watson acknowledged that the supplements scandal and its aftermath had affected his feelings about the game.
“There’s probably just hurt associated with it and when you get inflicted like that, with that sort of pain, then invariably the way you feel about something changes,” he said.
“The (Brownlow) medal didn’t really matter to me, it wasn’t important.
“I think the people whose opinion I value and who know me the best, they haven’t changed because I had to hand back the Brownlow Medal.”
Local News Matters
Media diversity is under threat in Australia – nowhere more so than in South Australia. The state needs more than one voice to guide it forward and you can help with a donation of any size to InDaily. Your contribution goes directly to helping our journalists uncover the facts. Please click below to help InDaily continue to uncover the facts.