Watson left scarred by the game - Richards

Jobe Watson has been scarred by his experiences over the past three years in football, and has fallen out of love with the game, according to his best friend, former Swan Ted Richards.

Richards hopes his old Essendon mate, who announced his retirement this week, is given a standing ovation when he does a lap of honour on grand final day, given the dignified way he has carried himself throughout the supplements scandal - and after being stripped of the Brownlow Medal.

"It's left a mark on him and he's paid a price," Richards told ESPN of Watson, and the scandal that culminated in a 12-month WADA ban for 34 players, including the Bombers captain.

"His relationship with the game is not what it once was.

"But I think he has handled the situation as well as anyone could. He could have moved clubs, he could have given up, but he kept on showing up and being a great spokesman for those teammates.

"I hope people acknowledge that on grand final day and give him a standing ovation."

Richards, who started his career at Essendon and recently moved back to Melbourne with work, said he had rounded up the old gang from Windy Hill - Chris Heffernan, Mark Bolton and David Hille - to watch Jobe play what will be his final two home-and-away games in Melbourne, against Adelaide and Fremantle.

Few people know the Jobe Watson story better than Richards, the pair having become buddies at Sacred Heart primary school in Sandringham and later attending Xavier College together.

When Richards, who was two years older, decided he needed to give away his part-time job stacking shelves at the Railway Hotel bottle shop in Chapel St so he could concentrate on his Year 12 studies, he got Watson to replace him. Now, in the cool room of that bottle shop, someone has created a special 'Hall of Fame' for those employees who have gone on to become AFL players - and it features just two names, Ted Richards and Jobe Watson.

At university, they once even took the same subject of macroeconomics together - even if, as Richards revealed this week, that was a terrible choice. Both failed the subject.

Given their shared history, it was pre-ordained, of course, that they were picked up by the same AFL club, Essendon when they left school.

Together, the pair would carpool from Sandringham to Windy Hill each day to save money on road tolls. They also developed a mutual antipathy towards coach Kevin Sheedy, whom they felt wasn't giving them a fair go, and spent many of these trips bagging the master coach.

Finally, they were picked to make their AFL debut - together, of course - against Port Adelaide in Round 1 of the 2004 competition. But the Bombers got pumped that day by the eventual premiers, and they were both dropped the following week.

By the end of 2005, when it became clear that to Richards that he was not exactly a Sheedy favourite, he began to think about moving clubs - and the first person he sounded out was his great old mate. Watson said he should go if the opportunities for him were greater at Sydney.

Richards was with Watson, Heffernan, Bolton and Hille in San Diego on an end-of-season trip in 2005 when the news came through that he'd been traded to the Swans. But the move did nothing to affect their friendship: 10 years later, Watson was best man and the three others were groomsmen at Richards' wedding in Sydney.

While Jobe will move temporarily to New York with his American girlfriend, where he has several business interests, it is believed he will spend most of his time next year in Melbourne, where his girlfriend has enrolled in an undergraduate degree.

Then the Richards-Watson friendship, separated by distance over the past 12 years, will begin anew. Closer to home, the Watson-Richards link has lived on in their absence as their mums still walk together around the streets of Sandringham and Brighton each week.